Police pursuit in High Town death crash justified says IPCC
A police pursuit which ended in the death of a 15 years old girl in a crash, was justified a police watchdog report has concluded.
Wanessa Lewandowska, a passenger in a Volkswagen Golf which crashed into a TV repair shop in High Town, Luton, on August 9 last year, suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene.
A second passenger and driver Michael Fludgate fled the scene on foot.
Mr Fludgate was given an eight-year jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving in September 2016.
During the investigation the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) spoke to witnesses, including Mr Fludgate, as well as consulting CCTV and recording equipment within the police vehicle.
The investigator was of the opinion that during the pursuit the officer maintained a significant gap between his vehicle and the Golf and at no point did the vehicles come into contact.
The investigation also looked at the actions of the officer following the crash.
The officer gave chase to the fellow passenger as he fled the scene before he checked the vehicle on his return and became aware Miss Lewandowska was still in the vehicle in a critical condition.
The investigator concluded this action was not according to correct policy but did not amount to misconduct as the officer was genuinely unaware Miss Lewandowska was in the vehicle when he initially gave chase.
IPCC operations manager Colin Dewar said: “This terrible crash caused the death of a teenage girl and my thoughts are with all those affected.
“The driver, Mr Fludgate, confessed to his crimes and is serving a long prison sentence.
“Our investigation has concluded that the officer who carried out the pursuit did so in accordance with police procedure.
“Although he left the scene to carry out further pursuit on foot before checking the welfare of anyone remaining in the vehicle, this action was considered not sufficiently incorrect that a panel could consider it to be misconduct.”
Payong tribute to Wanessa, Noel Hopper, Vice Principal The Studio School, Luton, said: “Wanessa was a very lively, bubbly and clever girl who the staff were very fond of. She was also well liked by her peers and had friends at both of our secondary academies who will be devastated by this news.”
Following the publication of the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) report Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: “This was a tragic incident in which a young girl lost her life. Specialist officers have supported the family throughout the investigation and our thoughts remain with them and her friends.
“We co-operated fully with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and support their findings that the actions of the officer involved were justified and proportionate. Our officers work incredibly hard to protect the public and fight crime often in very difficult and challenging circumstances.
“Michael Fludgate was given an eight-year jail sentence in September 2016 for causing death by dangerous driving . We hope his time spent behind bars will give him time to reflect on his actions which had such devastating consequences.”