Fire officers acquitted of manslaughter in fire trial

Two men have been found not guilty in the trial into the death of four fire fighters, Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, John Averis and Ian Reid, who died at a warehouse blaze in 2007 in Atherstone on Stour.

Adrian Ashley, 45, and Tim Woodward, 51, were senior fire-fighters in command of the operation.

Mr Woodward, from Leamington Spa, and Mr Ashley, from Nuneaton, were charged with gross negligence manslaughter in February last year following a criminal inquiry which cost taxpayers £4.6 million.

A third defendant, 50-year-old Paul Simmons, was acquitted of manslaughter on the directions of the judge part-way through the trial.

Timothy Woodward (centre) speaks to the media with Paul Simmonds (left) and Adrian Ashley (right) outside court
Timothy Woodward (centre) speaks to the media with Paul Simmonds (left) and Adrian Ashley (right) outside court Credit: PA

The Crown alleged that Mr Ashley breached his duty of care to those who were killed by "exposing them to substantial risk to life when no other lives were at risk".

Mr Woodward was alleged to have breached his duty of care to the four by failing to end the deployment of colleagues wearing breathing apparatus for the purpose of "offensive" firefighting.

They were both found not guilty today at Stafford Crown Court.