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Policeman 'not to blame' for crash

A POLICE OFFICER drove recklessly during a 120mph chase that ended in the death of two young men on a stolen motorcycle, a court was told yesterday.

But Constable Charles Wheeler was not to blame for the tragedy, despite the fact he had been charged with reckless driving, Michael Kalisher QC, for the prosecution, told York Crown Court.

PC Wheeler, 41, of Sprotborough, South Yorkshire, denies the charge, arising from a six and a half mile chase between Doncaster and Bawtry at an average speed of 114mph.

It ended when a stolen Honda 600 Supersport ridden by 22-year- old Richard Nilsson, with Stephen Parrott, 25, as his pillion passenger, failed to take a bend at more than 100mph and hit a lamp post with a sound 'like a bomb exploding'. The two men were killed outright.

The chase began when PC Wheeler and another officer in a police Rover 825 saw the motorcycle go through red lights in the centre of Doncaster.

Mr Kalisher told the jury: 'I make it quite clear now that the Crown seeks to place no blame, either legal or moral, on Mr Wheeler for the tragedy.' But Mr Kalisher said PC Wheeler, a Grade 1 advanced driver - the top grade - drove recklessly during the chase.

Both the dead men had convictions for dishonesty. Mr Parrott had a knapsack on his back which contained equipment for stealing vehicles, he told the court.

The men were both from Scunthorpe, from where the motorcycle had been stolen two hours before it was spotted at 3.10am on 19 May 1990, when the chase began.

Mr Kalisher said the officers were in contact with the force control and were neither told to break off the pursuit, nor to continue.

He told the jury that the police were not allowed to break speed limits any more than other road users. The speed in this case had not been justified, he said, even though when the men tried to escape it could have been suspected the reason for their flight was something more than going through traffic lights.

The observer in the patrol car, PC David Hardwick, said PC Wheeler had driven 'in a very professional and safe manner' during the chase.

The trial continues today.