Police examining CCTV, forensics and witness accounts in Crooked House arson investigation

Police have said they are examining CCTV, forensics and witness accounts in their investigation into an arson attack at an 18th-century pub.

The Crooked House pub in Himley, near Dudley – known as Britain’s “wonkiest” – was gutted by a fire on Saturday evening and was demolished by a digger on Monday.

Staffordshire Police later said they believed the fire was caused by arson, but no arrests have been made.

Detectives said they were continuing to work through a “number of lines of enquiry” in an update today but criticised speculation online and in communities as “unhelpful”.

In a statement, the force said: “There has been considerable speculation circulating within communities and online which, while understandable, has been unhelpful.

“We are trying to provide accurate and timely updates, but as you can appreciate, there is significant work and liaison required with a number of partners which needs to be completed.

“All of this takes time. We appreciate your patience.”

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The force added: “We fully recognise the impact of the fire and later demolition of the building on the community, given the significance of this distinctive and popular attraction.”

It comes as the mayor of the West Midlands has said he is “laser-focused” on rebuilding the pub “brick by brick”.

Andy Street said if arsonists had targeted the Crooked House they had “messed with the wrong pub”.

In a statement, Mr Street said: “It is clear from our conversation with South Staffordshire District Council that they remain just as committed to the future of the Crooked House as we do and we want to thank them for their time and candour.

“They will not let this lie and have a plan in place, (including pursuing enforcement action as they announced earlier in the week), but they must be given space and time to conduct their work, just as is the case with Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“That is why we would really encourage people to stay clear of the site now and allow authorities to carry out their work.”

A fire gutted the 18th-century pub just days after it was sold to a private buyer

Mr Street added: “We feel sadness, anger and frustration as much as anyone over what has happened to the Crooked House, but the last thing we want is for well-intentioned community action to inadvertently damage any positive future for the site.

“We have been very clear from the moment the Crooked House was demolished without permission that we believe it should be rebuilt brick by brick and we remain laser-focused on making that happen.

“Nothing we’ve seen or heard this week has led us to change our mind.

“We are absolutely on the case and indeed our resolve has hardened after hearing from the district council, whose plans we have pledged our full support to.

“Whoever has targeted this beloved landmark in this way has messed with the wrong pub, the wrong community and the wrong authorities.

“The Crooked House will not be consigned to history on our watch.”

Read more:
Someone must be held accountable for fire – most recent landlord

The popular local landmark burned down just two weeks after it was sold by pub company Marston’s to a private buyer.

The total demolition of the site had not been sanctioned by South Staffordshire Council, which said on Tuesday it had only permitted the top floor to be demolished over safety fears.

The council said it had not agreed to nor deemed necessary the demolition of the entire structure and is currently exploring whether the demolition constitutes a breach of law.

The pub was demolished by a digger two days after the fire

After meeting with Mr Street on Thursday, councillor Roger Lees, leader of South Staffordshire Council, said: “Our officers continue to work to explore all options in relation to the building and planning breaches at the Crooked House.

“I want to assure all interested parties that this case is absolutely a key priority for our officers and we are committed to working in partnership with all relevant parties on this important matter.”

On Thursday, Staffordshire Police said it had no control over the building’s demolition, but it was engaging with its owners as part of enquiries.

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