Star Inn arson charge dropped

The fire which all but destroyed the 14th-century Star Inn at Harome in North Yorkshire in November 2021 was an accident, a judge has declared at York Crown Court.

Arson charges against 27-year-old Helmsley man Charles Birkitt were dropped last week ahead of a trial scheduled for next year when the prosecution accepted evidence showing he was innocent.

He had been accused of using a lit cigarette to set fire to the thick thatch, which then erupted into flames that engulfed the building, causing damage estimated at £2million.

Judge Sean Morris, the Recorder of York, said the fire had been caused by cigarette ends thrown into a metal candle bucket outside the pub, which burst into flames that spread up ivy on the wall and into the thatch.

He told Birkitt: “You were not to blame for this; you were perfectly innocent, and you leave this court without a stain on your character.

Chef Andrew Pern (photographed), who has run the famous gastropub since 2016, supervised the rebuilding and reopened the Star within 12 months of the fire. The 2024 edition of Harden’s Best UK Restaurants reports that it is now “back at the top of its game“.

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