Widow wins 20 year battle for answers into death of Onese ‘Tony’ Power in Camden police chase
PUBLISHED: 10:04 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:24 08 December 2017
A widow has won a 20 year battle to find out what happened the day her husband died in a high speed police pursuit.
Ann Power’s husband Onese, known as Tony to friends, died aged 51 on the morning of 17 August 1997 when his Kawasaki motorbike smashed into a bollard at the corner of Royal College Street and Camden Road during a high speed police chase.
Before the crash officers were in pursuit of the father of three, who had a six month driving ban, after catching him speeding.
An inquest at St Pancras Coroners’ Court in February 1998 returned an open verdict, but in a High Court ruling on Tuesday Mrs Justice Nicola Davies and Lord Justice Lindblom quashed it and ordered a fresh inquest.
In a statement from the family Mrs Power said: “We are hugely relieved and feel vindicated. We have been thwarted every step of the way but now it feels some semblance of justice can start to be found for my husband, my sons and myself.
“Trying to find out what happened has been alienating and draining,” she added.
During November’s hearing Leslie Thomas QC listed a catalogue of errors in the original inquest.
He questioned the credibility of the officers’ almost identical version of events with Mrs Power – who had no representative at the inquest – given no chance of challenging them.
When witness Adele McDine – who in a statement described hearing “squealing brakes and the dull thud of a fast moving vehicle hitting a body” – was unable to attend the coroner failed to postpone proceedings to give Mrs Power a chance to question her at a later date.
Marks on the police car possibly caused by hitting the motorbike went uninvestigated, photographs weren’t taken, and the testing of skid marks that could have been caused by the police car was flawed.
The family were also not told until 2015 of a 1999 report issued by a road accident expert in which the author, a Dr Searle, described feeling ‘uneasy’ about the ‘whole incident’ and was ‘not surprised’ the family were unhappy with the investigation.
“We can all appreciate how easy it would have been for [the police car] to have nudged the motorcycle,” the report stated.
In the report Dr Searle concluded the painter and decorator positioned himself in the centre of the road moments before the crash but because the police were right alongside he was unable to lean his motorcycle and clear the bend. The officers had said they were behind Mr Power.
A 2004 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) review said 10 lines of evidence submitted at the inquest by a forensics expert – who described a police calculation of the bike’s 73mph speed at the point Mr Onese started braking as ‘conservative’ – lacked reasoning.
However, Mr Thomas told the court the CPS and a Met superintendent chose not to tell the family about the review findings arguing the expert’s involvement hadn’t led to a miscarriage of justice. It wasn’t until 2015 the family found out after pushing for the information to be released.
After quashing the verdict and ordering a new inquest Mrs Justice Davies said: “It will be open to a new jury to return a narrative verdict which would bring a measure of closure for the claimant, who has fought tenaciously on behalf of her husband.”
Mrs Power said: “My sons and I have lived with the weight of this case for 20 years as well as the loss of Onese. I can’t begin to list the different emotions we have experienced repeatedly on this journey.
“We have constantly felt the all too common feeling of being palmed off by the police. This can test anyone’s resolve but it always comes back to the fact that ‘you cannot be strong and wrong’.
“I want the judgment to encourage the police to act with openness and an attitude of lesson learning to prevent future unnecessary deaths. By ‘lessons to be learned’ I mean exactly that and not just a clichéd phrase to be bandied about in order to make it look as if something is being done.
“Real change is needed to prevent other families from having to struggle to find out how and why their loved ones died. Hopefully this turn of events can give hope to other families,” she added.
Hickman and Rose, which advised Mrs Power, said in a statement: “It is a travesty Ann Power faced institutional defensiveness and obstruction by the police when she was at her most vulnerable. Unrepresented, she faced an experienced barrister acting for the police at the public expense. The process was disempowering and traumatising.”
A Met spokesman said the force would fully co-operate with any new inquest.
The CPS has been approached for comment.