Police officers deny letting Stamford fatal crash man drive despite knowing he was drunk

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Police officers have denied that they deliberately waited to see if a man drove while drunk so they could make an easy arrest.

The claim was made at an inquest into the death of John McKeown, 62, of Ketton, who died in a fatal car crash after he was spoken to and followed by police in Stamford.

He was spoken to at 2.41am on Saturday, August 22, 2015, about loud music playing from his car on Broad Street by PCs Deborah Bowen and Jon Milne, of Lincolnshire Police,

Then shortly after Mr McKeown, who was nearly three times the drink drive limit, drove away in his blue Nissan Micra and was followed by the officers in their marked patrol car.

Mr McKeown, who was not wearing a seatbelt, suffered fatal injuries after he crashed into a stone wall at the end of Wharf Road, near the junction with St Mary’s Hill, after a short two minute and nine second journey with the police car behind him.

Two unopened cans of Carling lager and an open one were found in the car.

A jury inquest into Mr McKeown’s death is being held at Stamford Town Hall this week.

Barrister Sean Horstead, acting for Mr McKeown’s family, questioned PC Bowen, who was driving the police car, on the incident during the inquest.

He said that Mr McKeown had bent down to speak to the police officers who were sat in their car about the loud music. He suggested that the police officers had smelt alcohol on Mr McKeown then.

Mr Horstead said: “Did you think he’s in drink and so you drove a short way down the road to see if he drove the vehicle and then you could breathalyse him?

“When you saw he was not wearing a seatbelt that gave you a perfectly good reason to stop him and to breathalyse him.”

The barrister also asked the officer why had PC Milne told police control during the incident that: “We think he’s in drink” when asked why the officers wanted to stop Mr McKeown.

PC Bowen denied the accuasation.

She said: “If there was a suggestion that a crime was being committed then I would have dealt with it robustly.

“There was no suggestion that an offence was being committed. He did not smell of alcohol, his speech was not slurred and he was not unsteady on his feet.

“I thought he was a takeaway driver.”

She added that he complied with all road signs and traffic lights when he drove that day too making her think he was not drunk.

Mr McKeown was parked on Broad Street near to Zorba Kebab House when he was spoken to by the police about the music.

He then drove on to Star Lane and onto St Paul’s Street where he stopped at a red traffic light.

PC Milne got out of the patrol car which was following the Micra with its blue lights and headlights flashing as they wanted to speak to Mr McKeown about not wearing a seatbelt.

Before he reached the door of the Micra the lights changed and Mr McKeown drove off along Brazenose Lane and then stopped at the junction at the end of Priory Road before turning onto Wharf Road.

The officer said that along Wharf Road the police car reached 54mph in following the Micra before the crash which left Mr McKeown with severe chest injuries.

He had 218mg of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash, with the drink drive limit being 80mg.

PC Bowen claimed that she did not think that Mr McKeown had seen the patrol car behind him despite the flashing lights.

She said: “Even if we have the flashing lights on and the siren sounding people sometimes do not see you. I don’t think he saw us behind him.”

But Mr Horstead claimed this was preposterous and that he must have known of the police car’s presence.

PC Milne also denied that he knew Mr McKeown was drunk when he spoke to him on Broad Street or that they deliberately waited for him to then drive so they could arrest him for drink driving.

He said: “I did not think that he was intoxicated.I could not smell anything on his breath.

“There was nothing about him that made me think he was drunk. We did not wait for him to drive so we could arrest him for drink driving.”

PC Milne added that due to Mr McKeown cutting two corners and driving for a spell on the wrong side of the road he later thought that he might be drunk.

He added that they followed the Micra because Mr McKeown was not wearing his seatbelt.

The officer added that he thought Mr McKeown did not know that a police car was behind him at first but he felt he realised when the Micra stopped at the traffic light on St Paul’s Street.

There was confusion over the criteria to be a police officer who could pursue vehicles in a patrol car.

The inquest had heard from Inspector Richard Todd, a road’s policing inspector, that to be a pursuit driver officers had to pass a training course and take refreshers at least once every five-years.

PC Bowen had passed her pursuit driver training in 2001 and then a refresher in 2010.

At the time of the crash PC Bowen’s five-years had expired but she felt that she was still classed as a pursuit capable driver.

This was supported by Ian Pratt, a police driver trainer. who said: “In Lincolnshire you do not lose your pursuit status if you have not done a refresher course within five-years.”

Mr Horstead though produced a Lincolnshire Police document that stated that pursuit capability would be removed from an officer if it was more than five-years since training or a refresher had been undertaken.

The inquest continues.