Police investigation into death of Uppingham man who became trapped under a golf buggy was 'poor' and had 'no direction' inquest hears
A police investigation into the accidental death of a man who was hit by a golf buggy has been labelled ‘poor’ and ‘unnecessarily slow’ by a senior officer.
Roy Collins became trapped under the electric buggy after it collided with him at Rutland Water Golf Course on June 18, 2019 during an afternoon round with long-time friends Alan and Mavis Luntley.
The 82-year-old, a semi-retired stonemason from Uppingham, suffered severe chest injuries which triggered a cardiac arrest and in turn caused a fatal brain injury.
He was airlifted to University Hospital Coventry from the scene, but died four days later on June 22.
An inquest at Loughborough Coroners’ Court heard that police failed to ask buggy driver Mr Luntley for a statement until more than 12 months later.
Sgt Darren Richardson, then working as a Rutland beat sergeant, originally attended the scene and contacted the police’s serious collision unit which examined the electric buggy and found it in good mechanical order.
After becoming deputy commander at Market Harborough in March this year, Sgt Richardson took over the investigation in July because Mr Collins’ younger brother Don had raised concerns.
Sgt Richardson told the inquest a statement from Mr Luntley should have been taken much earlier and described the investigation as ‘unnecessarily slow’ with ‘absolutely no direction’.
But he believed the delays, caused by a ‘series of events’ involving officers leading the investigation, would not have affected the overall outcomes, describing Mr Collins’ death as a ‘tragic accident’.
“I became very aware that Mr [Don] Collins was struggling for a good point of contact so I took ownership of it,” he said.
“From my opinion it was a poor investigation.
“Mr Luntley was taken to hospital, but I was updated that potentially he had a heart condition or had suffered a mild heart attack so we wouldn’t have obtained a statement from him at that time. But I certainly would have expected a relatively quick follow-up.
“The investigation wasn’t a smooth process for several reasons out of our control, but also for some that were within our control.”
Sgt Richardson said they had found no criminality or malice involved and so did not refer the incident to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Lisa Borley, an environmental health officer for Rutland County Council, visited the golf course in December- six months after Mr Collins’ death - and found no evidence of health and safety contraventions.
The report said Mr Luntley was an experienced driver, that the course provided relevant safety information for those using buggies for the first time, and that good practices were followed since the accident.
But Don Collins criticised the delays in both investigations and questioned whether Mr Luntley was fit to drive the buggy which had been hired from the club in his wife’s name.
The health and safety report said the golf course could not have known Mr Luntley would drive the buggy, while Sgt Richardson added there had been no evidence he was unfit to drive it.
Mr Collins told the inquest his brother was semi-retired and still fit enough to work as a stonemason with his elder brother Keith.
“It’s about the legacy of my brother,” he said. “He was not due to die that day.
“It wasn’t his fault, it was somebody’s fault, but no-one is taking responsibility and I think that’s disgraceful.”
A statement from Mr Luntley was finally sought on July 20 this year when PC Jonathan Barlow visited his home.
But he was too unwell to make a formal statement so instead notes made the day after the accident were taken.
“He literally gave me a line, one sentence of what he could remember,” said PC Barlow.
“He said that he was in a golf buggy as he came over a hill and he hit Roy, and that’s all he said.”
PC Barlow told the inquest Mrs Luntley phoned the clubhouse to raise the alarm and help came within a few minutes.
Three people lifted the buggy to release Mr Collins and after attempting CPR a pulse was found and emergency services called.
Mr Luntley, who was unfit to attend the hearing yesterday (Tuesday, October 6), was also taken to hospital and after later discharging himself was readmitted the following day after experiencing severe shaking.
The only eyewitness account available was Mrs Luntley’s written statement.
She said her husband had felt tired because of his ongoing chemotherapy, but not unwell, and had decided to miss a few holes.
At the fourth hole, Mr Collins was looking on the ground for his ball after chipping a shot out of a ditch while her husband was driving the buggy, and without seeing each other, ‘their paths crossed’.
PC Barlow said the exact details of the collision were still not known but Mrs Luntley recounted in her written statement that as the buggy hit Roy, he fell and the front wheels of the buggy went over him.
She said Mr Collins remained calm when trapped although he was calling for help, but Mrs Luntley had been unable to lift the buggy off him.
No exact time was recorded, but the inquest heard Mr Collins’ would likely have been under the buggy for about 15 minutes.
Don Collins told the inquest he could not understand how the buggy had continued to drive forward over his brother after the initial collision, while going up a slope.
Sgt Richardson said there was no evidence that Mr Luntley had lost control of the buggy.
In recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Louise Pinder said the police investigation was ‘not of the standard we expect’, but thanked Sgt Richardson for his frank admissions and for bringing the investigation to a conclusion.
She said questions were still outstanding about how the collision happened and that ‘it couldn’t be excluded’ that Mr Luntley ‘had become temporarily incapacitated’ by an existing medical condition.
While stressing her job was not to find blame, she told Don Collins her verdict did not mean there was no blame.
“It doesn’t in any way diminish your views,” she said. “It simply means that because I have found it not to be deliberate that it is an accident.
“It remains unclear with the evidence available to me precisely how the collision occurred, but it can’t be described as a deliberate act, and we all agree on that.”