Excavator used to raze Crooked House pub ‘was hired before the fire’

‘If I knew this was going to happen, I probably would have done something different, but I’m not Mystic Meg,’ says digger firm boss

Jane Dalton
Sunday 13 August 2023 08:32 BST
Footage shows Crooked House being demolished two days after fire broke out

The digger used to tear down the much-loved Crooked House pub at the centre of criminal investigations was hired and delivered before the fire that gutted it, it has been claimed.

Lyndon Thomas, the boss of the plant firm that owns the excavator used on the 18th-century building near Dudley, West Midlands, said his firm had delivered it a week-and-a-half ago.

It was Saturday 5 August when the pub, famed for being “Britain’s wonkiest”, went up in flames. Just two days later, the excavator moved in and pulled it down, to the fury of local people who were fond of the quirky building.

People inspect the rubble remains of The Crooked House pub in Himley, near Dudley, West Midlands (Matthew Cooper/PA) (PA Wire)

Police are investigating whether the blaze was started deliberately, and Staffordshire council is investigating whether the demolition was illegal, because it had not given permission for the entire structure to be flattened.

Thomas said he could not be held responsible for what customers do with the machinery, once they have proven they have insurance – but had he known what was going to happen, he probably would have acted differently.

“If you give me your insurance and all your details and I deliver [equipment] to you and then you just tried to knock down your neighbour’s building, what can I do? I have done nothing wrong,” he told Construction News.

“We just hire a digger to a customer. I can’t be responsible for what they do with the machinery.

“If I knew this was going to happen, I probably would have done something different, but I’m not Mystic Meg.”

Employees have been sent “horrific” abusive emails, Thomas revealed.

“They are not very nice. We’ve had a lot of people ringing the phone and putting it down again.”

The building was a shell after the fire (PA)

The hire customer involved had an account, paid up weekly and always paid the bills, Thomas said.

Less than two weeks before the fire, the Warwickshire-based property company ATE Farms had bought the pub. Its director, Carly Taylor, is married to Adam Taylor, the boss of Himley Environmental, which operates a clay quarry next door.

The Independent has been unable to contact the couple, and the company has not responded to our calls and emails.

Local MP Marco Longhi has demanded to know why police did not halt the demolition, given that officers had started investigating the blaze two days earlier, and the site might have needed a forensic examination.

Detectives are still looking into the fire and photographs showing mounds of earth blocking access roads to the pub after the blaze started.

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