Statement by Elber Twomey after Torquay inquest
‘While I don’t blame the police officer involved personally for my tragic story, I do blame the police service’
Elber Twomey from Newmarket, Co Cork, reads a statement to the press following the conclusion of an inquest in Devon which heard details of a head-on collision involving a suicidal taxi driver in which he and members of Mrs Twomey’s family died. Photograph: Apex News and Pictures.
“Up to 2.46pm on the 6th of July I had not a care in the world. I was on holiday with my darling husband and and best friend Con, our beautiful little man, Baba Oisin, and our beautiful unborn daughter.
“At 2.47pm our wonderful life ended. As you are aware our tragic crash with Marek RIP claimed the lives of our beautiful little Baba Oisin and his beautiful unborn sister.
“If that wasn’t tragic enough it also claimed the life of my darling Con on May 3rd this year. I lost my everybody.
“I will always be of the opinion that the manner in which the police dealt with Marek that horrific day was completely wrong. To my absolute horror the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into our crash states that “no learning outcomes or organisational learning was identified”.
“I totally reject this finding. I believe that a more cautious and considered approach by the police is necessary to protect lives. The lack of this caution has cost me my entire family.
“I understand that the police were alerted to Marek having left home in emotional turmoil and that he was listed as a missing person. Although he had left a suicide note I believe it was a misjudgement by the police officer to request Marek to stop. After all he was not driving erratically, he did not have his wife and children with him and he had not indicated that he would end his life using his car.
“ The poor man was unwell, he was no criminal, he had not robbed a bank or murdered anyone. So then why the following at speed, the activation of the siren, the blue lights flashing and, finally, the hand-gestures? Jeepers, when I hear a siren it unnerves me not to mind what this would do to someone who was not of sane mind.
“Furthermore, the police officer I’d hope was aware of the road layout and that the crash barrier would end. I believe the police officer should have stopped his following and turned off his siren well before the crash-barrier ended to avoid a head-on conflict. In my opinion the supervisor in the control room who raised the risk from medium to high should have given the police officer guidance. I believe this person should have instructed the police officer to stop following the Vectra and turn off his siren in the interests of public safety.
“Marek had driven 11 circuits along Hamelin Way from Kerswell Gardens that day without doing anything wrong. Who knows? Had the police not intervened Marek could have just got tired of driving and gone home or gone to a friend or run out of fuel. I believe the following at speed,with lights flashing, the siren blaring and the hand gestures panicked Marek and caused him to do what he did. Surely the principal of least intrusion would have meant that I would not have suffered the loss of my entire family and the personal injuries I sustained.
“I appeal to all supervisors to exercise greater care and caution and to communicate in timely fashion to vehicle crews on such duties. I believe that supervisors need to consider the principle of least intrusion until stingers and a safe location to stop can be utilised. Surely the use of the stinger would be far safer than that of activating the siren, having blue lights flashing, hand-gestures and following at speed.
“While I don’t blame the police officer involved personally for my tragic story, I do blame the police service. I am convinced that the police service needs to review their handling of how they deal with a missing person who is known to have left a suicide note.
“Regretfully changing how the police handle cases like that of Marek will never change my life and bring back my beautiful family and the wonderful life I had. I loved being Baba Oisin’s Mom and I loved being Connie’s wife. But my hope is that the Police Service will learn from our horrific story, that they will put the appropriate policies and training in place on how to deal with a driver who has expressed an intention to commit suicide. After all we’ve all learned that a vehicle can be used as a lethal weapon. Please God, these will be in place before another innocent family has to experience such complete loss, total heartbreak and extreme tragedy.”