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Fire officers cleared over Atherstone warehouse deaths
Two senior fire officers have been found not guilty of the manslaughter of four colleagues who died tackling a blaze at a Warwickshire warehouse.
Incident commanders Timothy Woodward, 51, and Adrian Ashley, 45, were charged after the Atherstone-on-Stour fire.
Warwickshire's chief fire officer condemned the decision to press criminal charges against them.
Firefighters John Averis, Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley and Ian Reid died as result of the 2007 blaze.
Mr Woodward and Mr Ashley had denied manslaughter by gross negligence at Stafford Crown Court.
Fire service officer Paul Simmons, 50, was acquitted five weeks into his trial on the judge's direction.
The jury took just over seven hours to acquit Mr Woodward, station manager, and Mr Ashley, watch manager, after hearing six weeks of evidence about the deaths of the four firefighters.
'Sorrow and remembrance'
The prosecution had alleged the men were criminally responsible for the "needless" deaths of the men.
Graeme Smith, chief fire officer for Warwickshire, who was in court for much of the trial, said Mr Ashley, Mr Simmons and Mr Woodward were "treated like common criminals".
He called for the Home Office and Ministry of Justice to investigate how and why the prosecution was allowed to proceed.
Mr Smith said: "It is crystal clear that these cases should never have been brought to court in the first place.
"But today neither I nor any of my colleagues in the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service feel any sense of relief.
"Rather we feel a sense of sorrow and remembrance for the four brave firefighters who died at Atherstone-on-Stour in 2007."
(Covered in Crisis Response Journal Volume 8 Issue 1)
Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2012 BBC
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