Factory blaze claims life of ‘one in a million’ worker


Brian Newton: Friends said the nightshift worker was ‘one in a million’

A FACTORY worker died after a blaze ripped through the building as he worked the nightshift.

Brian Newton, 37, was an employee at Wicken Fen, Duns, in the Scottish Borders.

Sixty firefighters tackled the fire, which broke out shortly after 11pm, on Sunday night.

The body of Mr Newton was found inside the badly-damaged factory building.

The company produces gourmet vegetarian food, supplying delis and supermarkets across the UK.

A neighbouring businessman said he believed the dead man had been working when the blaze started.

He said: “He would probably have been on the nightshift because the firm are quite busy.

“They have got big fryers in that building. The fire probably started there.”

A colleague of Brian’s, who refused to give his name, said: “We worked together for a year. I cant really say anything but he was a top bloke and one in a million. It’s still not sunk in yet.”

A director of Wicken Fen, William Grimsdale, was briefly at the scene of the devastated factory this morning and left without making comment.

Scorch marks: the blaze badly damaged the interior of Wicken Fen

Speaking later at his home on a farm outside Duns he said: “It’s all under investigation by the police and I’m not supposed to say anything.

“I’m the wrong person to speak to, I’m just a silent partner.”

His wife, Shirley, said they only found out about the blaze early today (mon).

She said: “We only found out when a builder arrived, who said there was something going on in Duns. I have no idea what happened.”

Paul Weeks, managing director of the firm, appeared to hang up the phone when called.

Colleagues described Mr Newton as a dedicated worker.

One, who asked not to be named, said: “Brian was just a really nice guy.

“He was absolutely hilarious and was one of a kind.”

This morning, the severity of the fire could clearly be seen in the scorch marks above several windows and doors.

Firefighters were still on scene to inspect the building, which remains cordoned off.

At Mr Newton’s home in nearby Polwarth, which he is believed to share with at least two other people, a police car was parked in the narrow lane.

A policewoman answered the door but refused to comment.

Both the fire service and police said it was too early to comment on whether there were any suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders fire brigade said:

“We were called to a fire in a single storey factory building at 23.16pm.

“The factory housed a carpet factory and the Wicken Fen food factory. The fire is believed to have started in the food processing area. There was one male fatality. “

Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that the body of a 37-year-old man had been found within the premises and pronounced dead at the scene.

The force said in a statement: “Police and fire officers are now investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire and enquiries are at an early stage.”

A spokesman added: “Tragically, this fire has resulted in a fatality and we are now investigating along with Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue to establish the events that led to a man’s death.

“Anyone with information that can assist with the investigation is asked to contact police immediately. “

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