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PC cleared of dangerous driving after car he was pursuing killed two people

Advanced driver was pursuing stolen car which activated an ANPR alert

(This story has been updated since last evening)

A PC has been cleared by a jury of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving after a 10-year old boy and his aunt were hit and killed by a stolen vehicle the officer was pursuing in 2016.

Met PC Edward Welch, 34, was in pursuit of a stolen Ford Focus car reaching speeds of 60mph when it mounted the pavement and hit child actor Makayah McDermott and Rozanne Cooper, 34, in Penge, south-east London, on August 31, 2016.

A second child, who was aged 10 at the time, was also seriously injured, the Old Bailey heard.

The vehicle that was being pursued was driven by 19-year-old Joshua Dobby who lost control of the car on Lennard Road, crashing into a bollard and crushing the three victims.

Dobby was later convicted of two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and was jailed for 12 years, 

He had never held a driving licence and had more than 50 previous convictions. 

PC Welch told the Old Bailey he had been made aware the vehicle was involved in the theft of fuel but not about an earlier pursuit five days before in Kent.

After being cleared by the jury with a unanimous verdict PC Welch sighed heavily and thanked jurors as he left the dock.

But both the Met and the IOPC have indicated PC Welch may face misconduct proceedings and he has been on restricted duties since the incident six years ago,

PC Welch, from Chatham, Kent, denied two charges of causing death by dangerous driving, one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and an alternative charge of dangerous driving.

He was charged in May 2021 following a 12-month investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which concluded in August 2017.

A second, now former officer, who was with him has not been charged as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) concluded the legal test for a prosecution was not met for any alleged offences.

A file of evidence was presented to the CPS by the IOPC in August 2017,

In June 2019 an inquest determined Makayah and Ms Cooper were unlawfully killed by Dobby. On 18 May 2021, the CPS authorised the criminal charges.

PC Welch, a married father-of-two joined the Metropolitan Police at the age of 20 and was trained as an advanced driver

On August 31, 2016, PC Welch said he was notified that a lost or stolen Ford Focus had activated an ANPR camera on Penge High Street.

He responded with blue lights and sirens as he searched the local area including “crime hotspots” but did not locate the vehicle.

At about 2pm, he spotted it while he and his colleague were responding to a road traffic collision.

He told jurors: “There was traffic in front of us in Avenue Road, so I activated my blue lights and sirens to safely facilitate myself through the traffic towards the subject vehicle.

“I can categorically say he was driving at excess speed on Mackenzie Road.”

The jury heard how PC Welch had assessed the risk at one point during the pursuit as “low”.

However, the prosecution alleged that on “any sensible analysis, the risk posed by the pursuit, taking account of the driving of both vehicles, was at a higher level of risk”.

When asked to explain his assessment at the time, PC Welch said his “visibility was good” and the road he was on was straight.

A jury deliberated for half a day to find him not guilty of the charges against him.

Met South Area Commander Chief Superintendent David Stringer said: “The deaths of Rozanne Cooper and her 10-year-old nephew Makayah McDermott have naturally left their families devastated.

“Our thoughts remain with them and we offer everyone affected by this terrible incident our sincere condolences.

“Police pursuits must be carried out in very careful and controlled circumstances in line with policy to ensure they do not put anyone at risk. The jury has found Pc Welch did not commit a criminal offence but misconduct matters will now be carefully considered.”

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “Our sympathies go out to Makayah and Ms Cooper’s extended family and friends, the three injured victims, and everyone else who has been affected by this tragic incident.

“On conclusion of our investigation in 2017, we found that PC Welch may have breached police professional standards in relation to his conduct and standard of driving during the pursuit and his actions after the collision. This was agreed at the time by the Metropolitan Police Service.

“Now criminal proceedings have concluded it will be for the force, in consultation with the IOPC, to review what action to take over the disciplinary hearing.”

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