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PC's widow says all forces should stop using faulty vehicles

Kathryn Dumphreys spoke angrily after an inquest into her husband Cumbria PC Nick Dumphreys’ death recorded a verdict of accidental death

A “truly brilliant” police officer killed in a catastrophic road accident would still be here today if officers were not driving BMW vehicles with a history of hundreds of startling failures, his widow has said.

Kathryn Dumphreys spoke angrily today (20 December) after an inquest into her husband Cumbria Police PC Nick Dumphreys’ death recorded a verdict of “accidental death”.

The inquest heard that the BMW N57 engine in the cars that Nick and many of his colleagues across the country were driving had a litany of faults - for a four-year period, the vehicles’ N57 engine was failing five to seven times a month in police cars, more than 200 occurrences.

And yet the BMW cars were still being driven at speed by trained police officers who were not notified of these well known issues.

Kathryn has said that in her view all police forces in the UK should stop their officers from using these vehicles to ensure that no other family endures the pain and suffering that she has gone through.

She said: “It is absolutely staggering that Nick was sent out that day driving this car. BMW and Police Forces across the country knew that these cars were not fit for purpose. But the brave police officers out there driving them had no idea that they were driving what sadly proved to be deathtrap – accident or not.

“The people that needed to know did not know. Police officers were not told about these faults. Nick had no idea.

“It was the worst luck in the world that Nick was behind the wheel of a car that in my view should not have been on the road. And from what the inquest has heard it was only complete luck that this had not happened before. It was a catastrophic accident sadly waiting to happen.

“Five to seven times a month these cars were failing… more than 60 times a year… for four years. Why were police officers never told this? It was incredibly dangerous for officers. It was incredibly dangerous for the public.

“It is staggering. I am dumbfounded and so utterly upset that officers were being sent out driving these historically failed vehicles trying to catch criminals with what was dangerous work equipment. It is utterly outrageous. “

PC Nick Dumphreys and wife Kathryn 

Kathryn, 41, who is bringing up the couple’s two young children, added: “It shouldn’t have happened. It was easily preventable. Nick should still be here today. All I want to do is ensure that no one else is killed.”

The inquest heard that according to experts the car’s engine was "not fit and safe for high performance use by the Police" on the day PC Dumphreys’ accident happened.

PC Dumphreys, 47 suffered fatal injuries when his car – a BMW 330 - veered across the motorway and crashed near Carlisle on the afternoon of 26 January 2020. The inquest in Carlisle heard that at the time of the tragedy, the officer was responding to an emergency call for back-up and that he did nothing to contribute to the accident.

The inquest heard that the BMW patrol car was returned to the Constabulary's vehicle management unit four times in the month before the accident. Reasons for these visits included an oil change, a power failure at 70mph and warning lights appearing on the dashboard.

Following the fatal crash, a forensic examination of the BMW’s N57 engine revealed that a displaced crankshaft caused an obstruction of the oil-supply line. The result was a loss of oil, which was spread across the engine floor and, with the crankshaft continuing to rotate, this ultimately caused combustible parts of the engine to ignite.

The inquest heard that from 2014 to 2017, five to seven crankshaft bearing failures had occurred in each month in UK police vehicles. Coroner Robert Cohen described this as a “startlingly high failure rate”.

Kathryn, who also works for Cumbria Police, has been unable to return to her Police Constable role since the tragedy.

Mr Cohen said Kathryn has shown great dignity throughout the inquest and he described her husband Nick as a “truly brilliant human” who was an “adored family man very much missed by his family, friends and colleagues.”

Speaking about her husband, Kathryn added: “Nick was just everything. He was just a brilliant human. He was a brilliant guy. He loved life. He loved his family. His family was his life. But he loved everything that he did.

“Being loved by Nick was without doubt the best thing that ever happened to me. Loving him was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. We understood each other completely and I knew we’d be together forever; it just went without saying. Together we could face anything and knowing that he was by my side was all I needed.

“Facing a future without Nick has been terrifying and unbearable at times. But he is always in my head, smiling and encouraging me to keep going. We are so fortunate to have our favourite people around us to help us along the way. These are the people who play a vital role in keeping his memory alive for our young children, who were so young when he died they may not have their own genuine memories.

“Nick was just a really genuinely honest, decent person and he didn’t deserve any of this.”

Paul Williams, Chair of Cumbria Police Federation, paid tribute to Kathryn’s dignity and bravery in the face of neither BMW or Cumbria Police taking public responsibility for the faults that led to Nick’s death.

He added: “Officers should not be sent out driving to jobs with equipment that is not fit for purpose. Families should expect their loved ones to come home at the end of their shifts. The Police Federation will continue to hold police forces to account over the police vehicles they provide our colleagues.

“And we will continue to support Kathryn. She is inspirational and should not have to endure what she has gone through.”

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