Onese Power: Senior police officer recalls morning of fatal crash 21 years ago

Father-of-three Onese Power, who died in August 1997. Picture: Ann Power

Father-of-three Onese Power, who died in August 1997. Picture: Ann Power - Credit: Archant

Ambulance staff lodged a complaint with the Metropolitan Police in the aftermath of a fatal high-speed pursuit, an inquest heard.

Further evidence was heard at St Pancras Coroner’s Court today as part of a fresh exploration into the death of father-of-three Onese Power, who died more than 21 years ago after a police pursuit through Camden and Islington.

Mr Power, 51, died on the morning of August 7, 1997 after his motorcycle struck a bollard on the corner of Royal College Street and St Pancras Way.

Earlier this week officers said they had started to follow him in Camden Road because he was speeding, and continued because he had not stopped and they suspected his vehicle was stolen.

The chase saw both vehicles run through four sets of red lights and travel at speeds of 50 to 80mph, with other cars swerving to get out of the way.

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This morning coroner Mary Hassell and a jury heard evidence from James Watson, a then-chief inspector in the Metropolitan Police’s central command complex.

Mr Watson, who was not able to start monitoring the situation until shortly before its conclusion, told the court a police helicopter was also deployed and a second pursuit car had asked for permission to join the chase.

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A transcript of the conversation between the police car’s operator, then-PC Steven Heatley, and the Met controller was given to the jury.

PC Heatley’s updates were seven times marked as “unintelligible” and in one case he struggled to pronounce the name of the road they were entering.

At what was thought to be the moment Mr Power crashed into the bollard, he told the controller: “He’s off, off, off – he’s there, I think. It’s a serious POLAC [police vehicle accident].”

In the aftermath of the incident two ambulances pulled up at the scene, one of which had a paramedic who was able to get to Mr Power.

But ambulance crews were prevented by police from stopping the scene, Mr Watson said, because of “marks of the road” and “bits and pieces”.

He confirmed that they had later complained to the Police Complaints Authority because “they had to carry Mr Power and they didn’t like that. They wanted to take their ambulance across.”

Mr Watson was pressed by Sean Horstead, the lawyer acting on behalf of Mr Power’s family, on whether he had had enough information to decide if the pursuit was becoming too dangerous to continue.

He said he could not remember the incident, but said: “In an ideal world you would expect that an experienced operator and an experienced driver working as a team would provide the information needed. If not you would expect control at Scotland Yard to ask for it.

“As a team we need to trust they are doing what we hope they have been trained to do.”

He was also asked if it was “appropriate” for two relatively inexperienced officers to have taken on a chase of that nature.

He said: “Appropriate or ideal? Is it the best that could be done with the resources that were available at the time? Yes.”

But he added: “If this pursuit had gone on to five minutes we would have stopped it.”

Mr Watson was also asked why he was never asked to write a statement himself in the aftermath of the incident, and conceded that “an opportunity was lost”.

Eyewitnesses were due to give evidence to the court this afternoon. The jury is expected to return a narrative conclusion at the end of next week.

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