Baseball bats, drug dealing in the beer garden, a meat cleaver and an unlicensed shotgun stuffed under the landlord's bed

The astonishing allegations at the centre of a pub closure in a sleepy village near Corby

By Kate Cronin
Thursday, 30th January 2020, 2:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 4:04 pm
The Lord Nelson pub remains closed
The Lord Nelson pub remains closed

When armed police officers descended on the Lord Nelson pub in Stanion in the early hours of of January 2, people living close to the village pub were awoken from their beds with a start.

What exactly happened inside remains a mystery, and investigating officers were initially met with a wall of silence from those who were there on the scene.

Today, the Northants Telegraph can reveal the startling set of alleged circumstances that led licensing officials to take the unusual step of shutting down the Grade II-listed pub in Brigstock Road after they arrived to find a punter with a serious injury and an abundance of weapons in the building.

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There are usually low levels of crime in the quiet village of Stanion, between Corby and Kettering

Among these allegations are the suggestion that an attacker had collected a meat cleaver from his granny's house before launching an attack at the pub, that the landlord was drunk and had an unlicensed shotgun under his bed when police arrived, that drug taking is common at the pub and that villagers had been approached by pushers in the beer garden.

In official documents that will be used to decide whether it really is last orders at the pub run by landlord Michael Zacharias, 59, details of the incident have emerged that reveal some locals have been at their wits' end with the goings-on at the pub for years. But other Stanion residents describe the pub as the heart of the community, with a welcoming family-friendly atmosphere, and have pleaded with officials to allow it to reopen.

The fate of the pub will be decided at a Corby Council licensing committee meeting next Wednesday (February 5) but a behind-closed-doors meeting was held on January 15 to order the temporary closure of the pub.

In a statement to that meeting, Superintendent Dennis Murray - the north of the county's most senior police officer - told councillors that he was requesting an immediate temporary closure because he believed the pub was at the centre of serious disorder.

The pub was locked shut when the NT visited

When fifteen officers arrived at the pub at just after 2am on Thursday, January 2, Supt Murray said they found a man with a serious arm injury believed to have been caused by a bottle.

His statement goes on: "The injured party stated to police officers that the suspect for the assault was armed with a bottle, a baseball bat and what the injured party believed to be a firearm, possibly a shotgun."

Because a firearm was mentioned, officers on the scene made the decision to call for an armed response to the incident so had to wait for their arrival. When they went inside, they found several people in the pub - which has a licence to serve alcohol until 1am - including the landlord Mr Zacharias.

Supt Murray's statement continues: "A full search of the premises is then made and officers recovered a blood-stained hooded top, two baseball bats and two firearms: one shotgun and one air rifle.

The pub was shut following the imposition of an emergency order by CBC's licensing committee

"The shotgun was located under the premises licence holder's bed, unsecured."

Further enquiries showed that Mr Zacharias's gun licence had been revoked in 2017. The statement went on: "It was also noted that he was intoxicated and that he stated that there was no CCTV within the premises, this is a breach of the premises licence as this is a condition."

"The suspect for the initial report of the assault was also arrested at the premises, officers also noted that other occupants at the premises stated that nothing had happened despite various minor injuries being seen on some of the occupants.

"Later in the day when a staff member was at work she discovered a meat cleaver under the television in the pub which she believed may have been used in the disturbance."

The pub is grade-II listed and is the last remaining watering-hole in the village

When questioned, the landlord gave a prepared statement then a no comment interview.

Supt Murray went on: "The amount of time and resources this incident instigated was immense approximately two hours and 15 police officers."

In minutes from the licensing meeting, which was chaired by Corby Borough Councillor Bob Eyles, police officers said that had received 'no co-operation' from the landlord or from other pub-goers which led to 'significant concerns for public safety'.

Section 53a of the licensing act allows the police to order an immediate licensing review where they believe there has been serious crime or disorder. The review must be ordered by a top police officer - in this case the most senior officer in the north of the county, Operations Superintendent Dennis Murray.

It is a rarely-used power, and is only invoked in the most serious of cases.

Solicitor for Mr Zacharias, Colin Hobbs told the licensing meeting that his client had provided keys to police officers conducting their search and then had given his prepared statement after taking legal advice.

He said that repairs to his CCTV had been taken on January 10 but further work was needed to improve the quality of the images.

The meeting minutes go on: "In relation to the meat cleaver, Mr Hobbs stated that this had not been recovered by the police and was still in the premises."

Mr Zacharias said that the pub was not his main residence and that other staff members had access to the room where the shotgun was found.

"Mr Zacharias had restrained the attacker to prevent further injury."

Mr Hobbs argued that S53 of the licensing act was only normally enacted to deal with recurring incidents and was most commonly used in big cities to deal with knife crime - but during Mr Zacharias's 20 years as a licensee, there had only been minor incidents at his pub.

Following the hour-long meeting, the council's licensing panel unanimously decided to suspend the pub's licence pending a public consultation and a further hearing to take place next week.

During that consultation, locals have sent letters to Corby Council describing the pub as the 'heart of the community.' One says: "Our pub is essential to the community.

"This establishment is used by workmen who create business opportunities and work for each other. It is also used by vulnerable and lonely people who are welcomed in by both the community and the landlord.

"My wife and I have only experienced a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. It would be devastating to see yet another pub closed and a business gone to waste leaving a huge void in our lovely village."

Another neighbour says that it was the welcoming atmosphere in the 'family friendly' pub that persuaded them to move to Stanion.

A local pensioner says: "It is the one and only outlet I have to maintain a reasonable standard of life. The pub is my life. All of my friends that I have revolve around or are associated with the Nelson."

However, further representations from other locals paint a very different picture.

One local person said that neighbours have to clear broken glass from outside the pub and said that local people are too scared to speak up.

Another says that the pub is a 'haven' for drug dealers.

In an astonishing letter to the committee, the local man accuses the landlord of being 'foul mouthed' and says most of the village are 'scared to complain.' He said he had tried to sell his house to 'escape the noise.'

It goes on: "He is always getting into scuffs in the pub with his punters. It's usually later in the evening when people come over from Corby drunk and high. They only come as they know they get a lock-in."

He accuses the landlord of not adhering to his licensing conditions by having loud, live music on at midnight, with karaoke events causing 'the most noise of all.'

He goes on: "Twice in the last month a window has been smashed from the inside out.

"As well as noise the pub is rife with drug-takers. You can walk past the car park end and see into the gents' toilet through the window. There you can see men lining up the drugs on the windowsill to snort.

"It is a well-known haven for both purchasing and taking drugs and they blatantly stand outside both doors smoking it. The stench is unbearable some days.

"One summer evening after a dog walk we stopped in the pub garden for a quick half.

"A young guy, maybe 30, started talking to us about dogs. He then said that he didn't come from Stanion but came over purely for a drink and to get drugs.

"He told us he had some in his car if we wanted to try them. We are all middle-aged, respectable people and to say we were left stunned was an understatement.

"I would like the pub to remain closed as it's been so lovely and quiet this past few weeks."

Two men, one aged 28 and one aged 59 were arrested and released, pending further enquiries.