Police confirm Crooked House fire in Dudley being treated as arson

Forensic teams with dogs have been at the ruins of The Crooked House pub in Dudley this afternoon, which police are now treating as arson.

An investigation continues into the initial fire before the 258-year-old pub was 'unacceptably' demolished a few days after.

Staffordshire Police confirmed this evening that it is now treating the fire as arson.

Police and fire investigators were photographed at the site, located off Himley Road, Dudley, at around 2.30pm today (Wednesday 9 August).

Our correspondant Mark Gough has been at the scene today:

Circumstances surrounding the blaze which happened on Saturday evening, August 5, where the pub was ravaged by flames, are still being investigated.

However the police force has faced scrutiny from Dudley North MP Marco Longhi over whether it was notified about the demolition which took place on Monday afternoon (7 August).

Staffordshire Police has said this evening (Wednesday 9 August): We understand the significance of this much-loved building and the upset and anger felt by many so want to reassure you we’re doing all we can to understand more about what happened, and who was responsible.

“There is lots of misinformation circulating within communities and online and this is unhelpful. We’re trying to provide accurate and timely updates, but as I am sure you can appreciate, there is a lot of work and liaison with a number of partners which needs to be completed and this takes time.

“There are also certain things that police and fire do not have the powers to deal with, the decision around partial demolition of the building for example, when the scene was handed back to the owner.

“We are working hard with our fire colleagues to understand the cause of the fire and are in contact with the landowner, we will keep you updated with any further significant developments.”

A giant rubble of bricks is all that remains of The Crooked House.

Up to 30 firefighters were needed to tackle the blaze at the pub in Himley, near Dudley in the West Midlands.

The building was levelled on Monday despite South Staffordshire Council stating that they had permitted only the top floor to be demolished for safety reasons.

The council said on Tuesday it was exploring whether the total demolition constituted a breach of the law and stated that it had not agreed to "the demolition of the whole structure", nor deemed it necessary following an inspection.

Meanwhile, Staffordshire Police have said that their investigation continues and that it is looking at "all of the available evidence" into the cause of the blaze, which has not yet been established.

The site was bought by ATE Farms Ltd after its former owner Marston's sold it earlier this year, having given it a guide price of £675,000.

The Crooked House was gutted by a fire on Saturday night. Credit: ITV News Central

Mr Longhi wrote to Staffordshire Police's Chief Constable Chris Noble questioning why police did not intervene in The Crooked House's demolition while its investigation into the blaze was under way.

He wrote: "If the police are investigating the fire incident, then why would the site be demolished whilst the police are conducting their inquiries, which may possibly require a forensic examination to gather evidence?"

In a statement released yesterday, August 8, Chief Inspector Chris Cotton said: "We understand the strength of feeling in the community is high at this moment and the sadness felt amongst those who have a strong emotional attachment to this place. We recognise the cultural heritage and significance of the building within communities in the area and we understand that people are concerned about what happened over the last few days.

"I’d like to reiterate that speculation into the cause of the fire is not helpful at this time. Officers have been working hard to examine all of the evidence available and continue to speak to members of the public who have been forthcoming with information which can help our investigation.

"A cordon was in place temporarily whilst we carried out enquiries at the scene, but, due to the unsafe structure of the building, officers were pulled back and the scene was stood down. Since then, the area has been in the care of the landowners and the building has since been demolished.

"We are progressing a number of lines of enquiry alongside South Staffordshire Council and continue to ask anyone with any information to get in touch with us as soon as possible. We understand that the community have a vested interest in this incident. We are doing everything we can to progress our lines of enquiry and review the evidence available to progress the investigation."

Staffordshire Police has been approached for comment in relation to Mr Longhi's letter.