Protester 'did not want to die for cause'

Jill Phipps inquest: Policeman describes how he tried to stop 'deliberate' act
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A policeman told an inquest yesterday how he tried to stop Jill Phipps deliberately sacrificing her life by lying under the wheels of a moving lorry during an animal rights demonstration.

Const David Toms said he was running alongside the convoy escorting the lorry, which was carrying veal calves, to the gates of Coventry airport. He had just removed another protester from the path of the lorry when he noticed Miss Phipps.

"I was aware of another lady, who was Miss Phipps, who tried exactly the same thing - getting in front of the lorry with their hands on the front of it. My intention was to go back and do the same with Miss Phipps. As I was turning back I then saw her lie down on the ground.

"She then turned and lay on her back and shuffled under the lorry - positioning herself underneath it at right angles with her stomach directly underneath the wheel.

"It was my opinion from what I recall that it was a purposeful motion. I was approximately three feet away. I was just about to grab her and I wouldn't describe her as falling."

He told the Coventry hearing into the death of Miss Phipps, 31, on 1 February this year, that he stopped the Scania truck when it was on top of her body by banging on the passenger door.

In his statement after the tragedy, Const Toms had said: "It was my opinion she was doing this not to go away from the wagon but to purposefully position herself in front of the wheel. The lorry rolled on to her stomach and rolled her on to her back a few feet."

Pamela Brown, a close friend of Miss Phipps, who stood alongside her on the demonstrations against live exports, denied that the young mother would have martyred herself for the cause, and said: "She had everything to live for."

Ms Brown was asked if Ms Phipps had ever suggested that ultimately she wanted to die for the cause. "No way. It's complete rubbish. Jill had everything to live for. She had just got a new house. She had her 10-year- old son Luke - everything. There was no way either of us would have endangered our lives."

She added: "I honestly think that the police lost control of the situation. They knew what we did but they allowed us to do it."

Michael Mansfield, QC, for the Phipps family, had earlier accused Chief Inspector Richard Dinsdale of Warwickshire police of "gross negligence" in allowing the truck's convoy to continue when Miss Phipps and at least eight other protesters were attempting to stop its progress by sitting on the road and attempting to chain themselves to it.

He said the public order situation was "clearly unsafe".

The inquest was adjourned until today.