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KEEP IT SHUT; EXCLUSIVE Fury as butcher plans to reopen killer E-coli shop.

Byline: FRANK HURLEY, RICHARD GRAY and KRISSY STORRAR

THE butcher shop which sparked the world's deadliest outbreak of E-coli is to reopen, the Scottish Daily Mirror can reveal.

There was outrage last night as relatives of some of the 21 people who died in the epidemic discovered that the infamous J M Barr & Sons shop is to open again.

The relatives are furious that Martin Barr is soon to launch a bakery and butchers business in the revamped premises formerly run by his father, John, in Wishaw, Lanarkshire.

The families say the new venture has opened old wounds and callously disregards the feelings of those affected by the outbreak in December 1996.

Over 400 became ill after eating cooked meats from the butchers containing the deadly E-coli 0157 bug.

The Barrs refused to close the shop in Wishaw's Caledonian Road after the outbreak despite being fined pounds 2500 for selling the contaminated food.

However, the family were finally forced to abandon the premises after the council condemned the buildings due to old underground mine-workings.

But the decision to reopen for business has been greeted with dismay.

Agnes Ralston, 53, whose mum Jessie Rogerson died after eating meat from the butchers, was outraged at the news.

She said: "Opening the shop again is opening wounds of sorrow that have barely healed. It is insensitive, callous and totally wrong.

"I don't resent Mr Barr earning _ a living but why on earth is he opening up the same shop that sold meats that killed my mother and 20 other people."

Mrs Ralston, from Waterloo, Lanarkshire, said she believed that, when subsidence occurred to finally close the butcher shop, it was an act of divine intervention.

She added: "After all the heartache and sorrow that affected so many families, how arrogant and devoid of regret and compassion can the Barr family be, to consider opening so near to the anniversary of so many deaths."

She recalled the words of Sheriff Graham Cox, who conducted the fatal accident inquiry into the 21 victims.

He said that six of the food poisoning deaths might have been prevented if John Barr had been "more honest".

Martin Barr, who was a partner in the family firm at the time of the outbreak, last night claimed that he must earn a living and the only practical premises to use are the old shop.

His solicitor, Paul Santoni, said: "It would be wrong to criminalise the Barrs for the rest of their lives.

"They must be allowed to earn a living although I can see why reopening the shop could be seen as insensitive.

"But many new lessons about hygiene were learned from the outbreak and I'm sure they will be rigidly applied."

The man at the centre of the original outbreak, John Barr, was yesterday seen inspecting the revamped shop although he claimed he was not directly involved in the new business.

And he refused to answer claims that re-opening the shop would upset relatives of E-coli victims.

He said: "I don't think I want to make any comment about that."

CAPTION(S):

DEATH LINK: Barr, left, and his old shop, above, are infamous
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 14, 2002
Words:525
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