BREAKING NEWS: Warwickshire County Council pleads guilty to Atherstone warehouse firefighter deaths

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A GUILTY plea has been entered by Warwickshire County Council (WCC) in relation to the deaths of four firefighters.

At Wolverhampton Crown Court today (Friday) WCC admitted failing to ensure safety at work.

The bodies of Ashley Stephens, 20, John Averis, 27, and Darren Yates-Badley, 24, were found in the burnt factory, at Atherstone-on-Stour, in November 2007.

A fourth fireman, Ian Reid, 44, from Rugby, died later in hospital.

Chris Green, legal representative for Warwickshire County Council, said: “Warwickshire County Council has today entered a guilty plea to the charge it faces in connection with the Atherstone fire. That plea is entered on a limited basis and we should make it clear that we do not accept many of the allegations made by the prosecution. We believe it is very important that we say nothing that in any way prejudices the legal proceedings about these tragic events so we will not be saying anything further except that our thoughts today are with the families and friends of all those affected by the Atherstone fire just over four years ago.”

Three fire service managers from Warwickshire have also been charged in connection with the deaths.

Station manager Timothy Woodward, 51, and watch managers Paul Simmons, 50, and Adrian Ashley, 45, are charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.

They have yet to enter any plea and appeared in court earlier. Their case was adjourned to a date yet to be set.