Traffic officer was driving at almost 120mph while 'following' young motorist, inquest told

A traffic officer was shown on dash cam footage to be travelling at speeds up to almost 120mph and still failing to keep up with a young driver who crashed and died moments later on the outskirts of Wakefield.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 2:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 4:09 pm
Jamie Smith died in the crash in April 2018.

PC Andrew Wilson was giving evidence on day two of the inquest into the death of Jamie Smith, of Cross Street, Middlestown, before footage from the night of his death was screened for the 11-strong jury.

Mr Smith, 21, was behind the wheel of a powerful BMW when he lost control on Black Road at Heath Common late evening on April 30, 2018.

Not wearing a seat belt, he was thrown from the vehicle.

The scene where Jamie died.

Minutes earlier, the marked police car, also a BMW, had passed his car on the Normanton bypass and turned around to follow him.

PC Wilson said Mr Smith's car was travelling at a "hell of a pace" and told the inquest at Wakefield Coroner's Court that he estimated the car was possibly doing 70 or 80mph on the 50mph road at that point.

Video footage taken from the dash cam of the police vehicle shows Mr Smith's BMW passing, before the police car U-turned in the road and accelerated in an effort to catch up.

Reaching speeds of 118mph, the footage shows the police car failing to make any ground on Mr Smith after finally getting his car in view.

PC Wilson told the Coroner's Court: "We were not getting anywhere near it at all. It was getting away from us."

Notably, the police car had not activated its blue lights until moments before the crash, and neither PC Wilson or his partner with him had contacted the control room.

When asked why by Wakefield Senior Coroner Kevin McLouglin, he said: "There was no requirement, it was very quiet, there were no other vehicles to warn and I was still not in sight of the subject vehicle.

"In some situations it can make it worse, and I did not know what was going through Jamie's mind.

"If I had put my lights on half a mile away, he might drive faster and put others at risk.

"We did not contact control because at that time it was just a speeding car."

PC Wilson said he only put the lights on to warn cars up ahead that he was approaching, before turning them off again.

He also insisted he was following, but was not pursuing or chasing the BMW, a technical difference that would allow him to drive without the blue lights.

The video showed the police vehicle then coming across the wreckage of the BMW which came to rest close to the Horse & Groom pub.

Mr Smith had lost control of the car on a bend close to the junction with Hell Lane. It then hit a series of bollards and a large boulder.

Mr Smith had been thrown clear, while his passenger and best friend, Lewis Charlesworth, is then seen on the video exiting from the front passenger seat largely uninjured.

During the opening day of the inquest, it was claimed by Mr Smith's father, Paul Smith, that drugs found later in the crashed BMW - £2,000 worth of cocaine - had been planted.

Mr McLouglin asked PC Wilson about this claim to which he replied: "I certainly didn't see anyone. I do not understand A: Where would we get that and B: Why would we do it?

“There's no truth in that at all."

Mr Charlesworth had also given evidence on the first day, who claimed Mr Smith only begun speeding up after he saw the police car, and told him moments before crashing that he had two bald tyres, inferring that he did not want to be stopped by police.

The inquest, which is expected to last five days, continues.