independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

UK police alter pursuit tactics days after plea by Irish woman

-...PIC: APEX 02/12/2013
Pictured: Elber Twomey from Cork, Ireland, reads a statement to the press following the conclusion of an inquest in Devon which heard details of a head-on collision involving a suicidal taxi driver in which he and members of Mrs Twomey's family died.
The collision claimed the lives of Mrs Twomey's husband Con and their toddler son Oisin. The couple's unborn daughter was also killed whilst Mrs Twomey was left with serious head injuries.
The collision happened on 6 July last year on Hamelin Way in Torquay.
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Elber Twomey from Cork

A UK police force has amended its pursuit procedures just days after a plea from an Irish teacher whose entire family was wiped out by a suicidal taxi driver.

Devon and Cornwall Police sources insisted that the new measures are not directly related to the July 6, 2012, tragedy in Torquay that claimed the lives of Elber Twomey's husband Con (38), son Oisin (16 months) and unborn baby girl Elber Marie.

It said the updating of its official driving and pursuit guidelines followed a long-running and detailed review process.

Mr Twomey died nine months after the accident from the injuries he had sustained.

Under a new recommendation, only specially trained tactical Devon and Cornwall police drivers are to be used in the initial pursuit of motorists deemed to pose any form of risk. The change was notified on the Devon and Cornwall Police's website on December 20.

Mrs Twomey, in an emotional plea after a Torquay inquest on December 2, pleaded with all UK police forces to review their procedures for dealing with high-risk motorists such as suicidal drivers.

She lost her entire family and suffered life-threatening injuries herself when Polish taxi driver Marek Wojciechowski (26) rammed their Volkswagen Golf car at a junction outside the tourist town.

Mrs Twomey said she didn't want any other family to suffer her catastrophic loss.

"I will always be of the opinion that the manner in which the police dealt with Marek that horrific day was completely wrong," she said.

"I believe the police officer should have stopped his following and turned off his siren well before the crash barrier ended to avoid any head-on conflict.

"While I don't blame the police officer involved personally for my tragic story, I do blame the police service. I am convinced (they) need to review their handling of how they deal with a missing person who is known to have left a suicidal note."

The police constable told the inquest that he "acted on a hunch" after seeing a black car driving on the opposite side of Hamelin Way and drove at speeds of between 70 to 80mph to catch up with the driver.

The constable said he flashed his headlights four times and signalled for the driver to pull over but pulled back when "I saw that he wasn't going to stop".

PURSUIT

"I am not a trained pursuit driver. The driver was aware of my presence. As we approached the single carriageway he made a deliberate act of accelerating and driving straight into the other carriageway.

"The back end of the vehicle dipped dramatically turning directly into an oncoming car," he added.

Mrs Twomey said she reacted with "absolute horror" to the UK's Independent Police Complaints Commission, which said "no learning outcomes or organisational learning was identified" from the tragedy.

"The lack of this caution has cost me my entire family," she said.

"My hope is that the police service will learn from our horrific story . . . that they will put the appropriate policies and training in place on how to deal with a driver who has expressed an intention to commit suicide."

The Pole, who had circled a busy dual-carriageway 12 times outside Torquay, drove into the Twomeys' car just seconds after a Devon policeman tried to pull him over.

Irish Independent

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