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Star Inn fire: arson charges dropped after blaze at Michelin star restaurant

In the latest update to the Star Inn fire saga, arson charges have been dropped against a man accused of deliberately starting a blaze that ripped through the Michelin star restaurant and caused £2m of damage. 

28-year-old Charles Birkett was originally charged with committing arson at the beloved North Yorkshire restaurant in November 2021, but now he has been cleared following a trial at York Crown Court.

Originally Mr Birkett, who is employed as a shooting estate manager from Helmsley, was charged on the assumption that he had deliberately put a cigarette into the thatch of the historic building.

He was also charged for actions showing reckless endangerment to others and was facing a potential prison term of 6 years for the Star Inn fire.

star inn at harome exterior post fire
Image: Starr Inn at Harome

However, new evidence has since been submitted to the court which revealed the devastating blaze had begun entirely by accident.

Mr Birkett’s named has now been cleared on the basis of new evidence revealed in a private report paid for by his family, who also happen to run the Rievaulx Sporting Estate.

According to the report, the Star Inn fire had in fact been caused by a candle in a makeshift ash tray which ignited cigarette butts before spreading to dead ivy around the inn’s door.

Judge  Sean Morris, who was overseeing the case at York Crown Court, told Mr Birkett on Friday: “You were not to blame. You are perfectly innocent.”

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Birkett said that his life had been “extremely hard” for the past two years in the lead up to clearing his name.

He also criticised the police and fire service investigations as he pointed to the fact he was forced to use his own family resources to pay to clear his name.

At the time of the Star Inn fire, over 40 firefighters attempted to battle the blaze at Harome.

The inn has since been rebuilt and reopened on the anniversary of the original fire two years ago, back in 2022.

Featured image – The Star Inn at Harome via Instagram



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