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Chef's shock at school 'poison bid'

A trainee chef has told of her shock at seeing a kitchen porter at a top public school allegedly try to poison the pupils' soup.

Louise Samples, 21, was so stunned to see Maxwell Cook pouring a cleaning product into the carrot and coriander soup at Stowe School that she did not at first tell anyone, a court heard.

Cook, 58, denies attempting to administer poison with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy.

But on the first day of his trial, his former colleague Miss Samples told Aylesbury Crown Court in Buckinghamshire she had seen him in the kitchen pouring into the pot a sanitising destainer used to unblock drains.

She said: "I was extremely shocked at what I saw and I carried on walking. I didn't feel comfortable enough to approach him."

Cook's defence barrister, Henry James, asked Miss Samples whether in fact it was she had who poisoned the soup to discredit the chef, with whom she was competing for a job.

But the trainee denied this, telling the court in a shaky voice: "Everyone I work with is like a second family to me."

The presence of the cleaning product in the soup on March 11 last year was detected during a routine tasting, the court heard, and no pupils or staff at the £27,000-a-year school were hurt.

A forensic scientist who analysed the soup afterwards detected the presence of chlorate in it, the court heard. This was also to be found in the cleaning agent.

Cook, from Syresham, Brackley, Northamptonshire, was suspended after the incident at the Buckinghamshire school.

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