Coroner hears drink driver died after police pursuit in Stamford

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A painter who died after crashing into a wall following a short police pursuit was almost three times the drink drive limit.

The blue Nissan Micra driven by John McKeown, of Ketton, collided with the low wall in Wharf Road, in Stamford.

He was treated at the scene in the early hours of Saturday, August 22, 2015, and at Peterborough City Hospital but he died at 3.54am.

A jury inquest into the death started today (Tuesday) at Stamford Town Hall led by coroner Paul Cooper, the senior coroner for South Lincolnshire,

Speaking at the inquest Judith McKeown, the dead man’s widow, said: “Everyone who knew John loved him and he would give his last penny to anyone.

“He was kind and helpful. He would go the extra mile for people and not ask for a penny. He had a big heart.

“It’s been very difficult losing him so quickly. He was a good driver and he had never had a crash before.”

The inquest heard that PCs Deborah Bowen and Jon Milne, of Lincolnshire Police, were driving a marked police Vauxhall Astra Estate along Broad Street, in Stamford, at 2.41am on August 22, 2015.

Near to Zorba Kebab House they saw the Micra with its radio playing loud music.

They spoke to keen body builder Mr McKeown, 62, who seemed to be the owner of the vehicle and he turned down the music.

A second police car arrived and following a brief conversation with PCs Bowen and Milne it left the scene. A short while later PC Bowen drove a bit further along Broad Street and parked up,

Then the Micra driven by Mr McKeown went past the police car and turned onto Star Lane. The officers felt he was not wearing a seatbelt and PC Bowen drove the police car after the Micra turning on their flashing blue lights and headlamps.

Mr McKeown continued along St Paul’s Street and at the red traffic lights at the junction with Brazenose Lane he stopped.

PC Milne got out of the patrol car and walked towards the Micra but before he got there the lights turned green and Mr McKeown drove down Brazenose Lane and onto St Leonard’s Street.

The officers asked for a police check to determine the driver of the Micra and when asked by the police control why they wanted to stop him said they felt he had been drinking.

Both cars continued onto Wharf Road at 30mph. The inquest heard Mr McKeown speeded up with the police in pursuit reaching 54mph before the Micra left the road and hit the stone wall near the junction with St Mary’s Hill.

The inquest heard that the pursuit last two minutes, nine seconds. An ambulance was called but Mr McKeown, who had not been wearing a seatbelt, deteriorated rapidly and died soon after the crash.

A report by the pathologist stated that Mr McKeown suffered multiple fractures to the left side of his chest and a ruptured heart as he was thrown against the inside of the car.

It also revealed he had 218mg of alcohol in his blood, the legal drink drive limit is 80mg.

Barristers Beatrice Collier, for the police, and Sean Horstead, for the family, cross examined witness at the inquest.

They were told that officers were supposed to do a risk assessment before starting a pursuit into details like the road layout and danger to other people.

But the inquest heard that due to the short nature of most pursuits this was not always practicable.

Inspector Richard Todd, a road’s policing inspector, said that there were different levels of police drivers with some allowed to do pursuits and some not dependant on training.

PC Bowen had passed the training to be able to do pursuits but it only lasted for five-years and needed to be refreshed or she could no longer do pursuits.

Her last five-year term ran out six months before the fatal crash and she had not refreshed it.

Forensic collision investigator with Lincolnshire Police, PC Ray Holloway, was called in to examine the crash site.

He revealed that two unopened cans of Carling lager had been found in the Micra and one opened can also.

PC Holloway claimed that he did not think that police officers had to refresh their pursuit driver training and that once it was done that was it.

Both cars were examined and no defects were found on the police vehicle. Some defects were found on the Micra but nothing that would cause the crash.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission was asked looked into the case.

The inquest continues.