Inquest Into Death Of 31-Year-Old Woman In Essex Concludes
An inquest jury at Essex Coroner’s Court has concluded that a police pursuit probably contributed to the death of Jessica Ladkin . However, the jury found that the pursuit was “proportionate”.
Jessica , aged 31, died in a road traffic collision on Parklands, Waltham Abbey, on the night of 28 March, 2019, during the course of a pursuit by police officers.
The inquest before HM Senior Coroner for Essex, Lincoln Brookes, heard evidence that the two police officers, who worked for Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary, had attempted to stop Jessica on the A10, near junction 25 of the M25, on suspicion of driving without insurance.
The officers followed Jessica onto the M25, and after she accelerated away from the police vehicle after exiting Waltham Tunnel, they followed behind her at speeds in excess of 100mph.
The officer driving at this time was not trained or authorised to conduct pursuits, and gave evidence to the jury that he did not believe he was pursuing Jessica as he had switched off his blue lights and siren.
Although this officer was an ‘advanced’ police driver, he had not undergone training in pursuits and told the inquest that he had not been trained in the definition of a police pursuit.
Sergeant Richard March, the head of police driver training for Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire police forces, told the Senior Coroner that following the inquest, additional training on the definition of a police pursuit will be provided to officers who are not trained to conduct pursuits.
Both Jessica and the police vehicle exited the M25 at junction 26. The two police officers swapped seats after coming off the M25, so that an officer who was trained and authorised to conduct the initial phase of a police pursuit was driving. They conducted a search of the area to try to re-sight Jessica’s vehicle, which they subsequently did on Broomstick Hall Road.
After re-sighting Jessica’s vehicle, the police engaged in a pursuit on residential roads in Waltham Abbey, at speeds in excess of 90mph. The officer who was driving at the time, who was trained in the initial phase of pursuits, told the inquest jury that the pursuit was getting close to the stage where it was becoming too dangerous and he would have had to discontinue it.
Jessica lost control of her vehicle when taking a bend on Parklands, and her car collided into another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. Sadly, Jessica died of her injuries at the scene.
Expert Opinion“Jessica’s parents have struggled to come to terms with the loss of their daughter, who also leaves behind two young children. They have also had concerns about the conduct of the pursuit which contributed to her death, and whether it was necessary and proportionate for the police to pursue Jessica at high speed.
“The jury found that it is likely the police pursuit made a more than minimal contribution to Jessica’s death, but found that the pursuit was proportionate in all the circumstances.
“According to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, in 2018/19 the number of road traffic deaths involving the police rose to a 10 year high. Of course, Jessica was not just a number or a statistic: she was a woman who leaves behind many people who loved her.” Oliver Carter - Associate Solicitor
Terry and Jenny Ladkin, Jessica’s parents, said: “Jessica is irreplaceable, and an immense scar has been forever left on our hearts by her death. What happened on 28 March, 2019, changed our family forever, and the senseless crash that ended Jessica’s life did not need to happen.
“We lost a daughter, Jessica’s siblings lost a sister, and most saddening of all, two precious young children lost a loving and caring mother. It is impossible to put into words the impact losing Jessica has had on our lives. We miss her phone calls many times a day, her generosity, her infectious laugh and her positive attitude.
“We understand the police have an incredibly difficult job, but we wish things had been dealt with differently that night, and we hope lessons are learned to prevent other families from experiencing the pain and loss we feel.”
Caroline Finney, a caseworker at the charity Inquest, said after the hearing: "Despite the findings of the inquest, we are left wondering how pursuits with the potential to cause deaths can be proportionate in almost any circumstances, let alone for suspicions of driving without insurance.
“The pursuit clearly put Jessica at risk, as well as the police themselves and members of the public. As the numbers of road traffic incidents involving police go up, serious action is needed to prevent incidents like this and protect lives in future."
Adam Wagner, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, was instructed to represent Jessica’s parents during the inquest.
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