No one foresaw tragic crash, police chief tells devastated Twomey family
AN IRISH teacher who had her entire family wiped out by a suicidal taxi driver has queried why British police have no specific policy to deal with such a crisis.
Elber Twomey (37) lost her husband, Con (38), her son Oisin (16 months), her unborn baby, Elber Marie, and was left fighting for her own life after Polish taxi driver Marek Wojciechowski (26) deliberately drove into their car on the last day of their UK holiday.
A Devon coroner's inquest heard that CCTV footage showed Wojciechowski making 12 circuits of the Hamelin Way dual carriageway before he was pulled over by a local police officer.
The inquest also heard that Wojciechowski had left a four-page suicide note for his wife, Agnieszka, before circling a busy dual carriageway 12 times outside Torquay on July 6, 2012.
He crashed into the Volkswagen Golf of the Twomey family, from Meelin in north Cork, just seconds after a suspicious Devon police constable had signalled that he should pull over.
The police had been alerted to the fact that the former hotel worker was "a high-risk missing person" after the discovery of his suicide note.
Police constable Ben Bickford told the inquest he "acted on a hunch" after seeing a black car driving on the opposite side of Hamelin Way and that he drove at speeds of between 70 and 80mph to catch up with the driver.
PC Bickford 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."
"I am not a trained pursuit driver," he said.
"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."
Mrs Twomey, the only person in car to survive the impact, asked through her barrister why there was no specific police policy to deal with suicidal drivers.
Chief Supt Jim Nye, who was head of South Devon police at the time of the accident, said: "No one foresaw that outcome. It is tragic and it affected the whole policing community but it was in line with guidelines."
Noting that nothing like this had happened in the area before, he described the outcome as "horribly tragic" but added that "what happened is very, very rare".
Mrs Twomey attended the inquest with her brother and a friend but left the courtroom twice to avoid graphic descriptions of the emergency services' efforts to save her family.
The Twomeys' UK holiday had been chosen by Con Twomey because he believed it would be safer than a sun holiday for his wife, who was five months pregnant with their second child.
Mr Twomey died last May from injuries sustained in the collision 10 months earlier.
Dr Nigel Garbutt, who was one of the first people on the scene, described how he performed CPR in a bid to resusitate the toddler, who was strapped into a child-safety seat.
"The child was not breathing and not responsive. At that point the child was clearly dead," he said.
Dr Garbutt added that paramedics fought for the next hour to revive the little boy, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Witness John Onions testified that he was in a traffic queue and gave way to the Twomey's Golf as it was turning on to Hamelin Way.
Seconds later, he saw the black Vauxhall Vectra drive straight at the Volkswagen.
"It was impossible for them to do anything," he said. "The oncoming car decided to turn and go straight into it. It's as simple as that."
The inquest had previously heard evidence from Mr Wojciechowski's widow Agnieszka, who found the four-page suicide note written by her husband and blamed herself for her husband's mental state.
She said he couldn't cope after she asked him for a separation following months of marital problems and financial pressure.
The note, which was found a few hours before the fatal collision, said Mr Wojciechowski loved his two children and that he didn't blame his wife but was sorry the way things had worked out.
The couple had both worked at the local Toorak Hotel in Torquay.