Interim fire officer named amid WhatsApp probe

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has appointed an interim senior officer amid an investigation into two leaders over claims of "deeply concerning" WhatsApp messages.

Sam Burton will join the team as interim assistant chief fire officer (ACFO) at the end of May.

A spokesperson for the fire service said Ms Burton, an area manager at West Midlands Fire Service, would "add senior capacity" to the leadership team and work alongside ACFO Guy Williams.

Chief fire officer Simon Hardiman and his deputy Adam Matthews are accused of exchanging offensive messages about female colleagues.

Ms Burton said: "Whilst I understand the service is going through a difficult time I’m committed to ensuring this doesn’t define us or impact on how we deliver excellence in Shropshire."

Councillor David Minnery, chairman of the fire authority, said her experience would be a "tremendous boost" in what was a "challenging time for the service".

The WhatsApp messages were reportedly leaked to ITV News.

In the conversations, one woman was allegedly described as a “lazy cow” and “useless”.

In another exchange, Mr Hardiman is alleged to have said: "I've calmed down now, but I could still kill her, buddy."

Helen Moore, from The Employment Solicitor, said the fire authority had known about the alleged exchanges for two months but had not taken action or suspended the two men.

A number of the messages targeted area manager Jan Morris, a trigger that led her to resign, said Ms Moore.

In other messages, Mr Matthews is alleged to have said Ms Morris was ineffective in her work and that "I've got no loyalty to the lazy cow".

A spokesperson for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service previously said the complaints were being investigated and appropriate action would be taken once inquiries were completed.

"The service takes all complaints extremely seriously and hold all our staff accountable, regardless of their position," they said.

His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) previously described the allegations as "deeply concerning".

A spokesperson added: "It would not be appropriate to comment further on this specific case at this time.

"We take all evidence into account as part of our inspection process."

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