Three police officers left a dangerously icy road where a car had crashed and drove away just minutes before two other drivers were killed at the same spot, a misconduct hearing was told today (Wed).
The constables did not bother to leave signs warning of ice on the road and did not even insist on a gritter being called to the scene before resuming their patrol, it was claimed.
The three are facing a Thames Valley Police disciplinary hearing which could see them sacked if they are convicted of misconduct.
An independent panel chairman will rule on their guilt or otherwise when the case is completed on March 3.
Response officers Police constables David Stamp, Hugh Flanagan and Caroline Irwin were called to a crash in the early hours of the morning after driver Martin Kendall skidded off the A413 road in Buckinghamshire.
They then left again less than 30 minutes later, prosecuter Mark Ley-Morgan told the police misconduct hearing in Newbury, Berks.
He said that three did not leave a sign to warn other road users of the conditions and just 28 minutes after leaving the scene, Malcolm Tindall and Carl Bird crashed head-on into each other and died in an icy collision that left another passenger seriously injured.
A laughing PC Stamp had earlier told a firefighter at the scene that he would get the gritters out but Mr Ley-Morgan told the hearing that he had been dissuaded from insisting upon this.
Footage from a body-worn camera was shown to the hearing in which firefighter volunteer, crew manager Peter Tomes, could be heard saying “I am sure there will be another one joining it later”, referring to Mr Kendall’s car.
PC Stamp could then be heard to answer: “I’ll get the gritters out in a minute”, before chuckling.
Mr Ley-Morgan explained that the officer had told the on-duty radio controller to ask for the Highways Agency to send a grittier down to help clear the ice.
“There is no way he could have forced the Highways Agency to come and grit the road and I accept that it is highly unlikely that they would have been there in time to grit the road to stop the accident half an hour later but I still say that he was best-placed to explain to the controller how serious the risk was,” he said, opening the case.
“He should have insisted that the gritter was needed.”
Mr Ley-Morgan continued: “He told the controller to see whether the Highways Agency would grit the road. He was told that the response from the Highways Agency would be that the ice would have melted by the time they got the gritters out.”
He also told the hearing that PC Irwin, who, like PC Flanagan had been an officer for about two years, had only checked the road conditions in the direction that Mr Kendall would have carried on travelling to, instead of looking at where he had come from.
“The officers knew that Mr Kendall’s accident had been caused by him losing control and slipping on the ice, or at the very least they knew that was what he was saying had caused it,” he added.
“Having had that knowledge, they then failed to carry out sufficient investigations as to the cause of the accident. In particular they failed to look at the point in the road where Mr Kendall had lost control.”
Mr Kendall, then aged 48 years and from Aylesbury, phoned police at 4.52am on March 4 2014 to report he had crashed his car on the A413 between Wendover and Great Missenden, Bucks, but police had left the scene again by 5.26am.
Mr Kendall’s Volkswagen Passat which had flipped over was also left by the side of the road half an hour before the fatal collision involving Mr Tindall, aged 64 years, from Aylesbury, and Mr Bird, aged 29 years from High Wycombe at 5.54am.
All three officers are accused of breaching professional policing standards in eight different ways including failing to carry out any or sufficient investigation of the circumstances leading to Mr Kendall’s accident, failing to adequately address the risk to road users posed by the ice, leaving the scene when they should have stayed and failing to request that other officers attend the scene with warning signs to alert other motorists.
They were also accused of leaving the scene without making sure the road was safe and without leaving in place any safety measures.
Stamp, who has been an officer for six years, is also accused of failing to insist that the controller contact the Highways Agency as a matter of urgency to ask for their help.
“He should have made it much clearer to the controller and insisted that a call was made to the Highways Agency,” Mr Ley-Morgan added.
All three officers were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Comission (IPCC) which ruled that all three had gross misconduct cases to answer.
The hearing continues and is expected to run until March 3.