A senior police sergeant told an inquest he thought it “unusual and unacceptable” two officers did not share information while investigating claims of dangerous driving by a man who died an hour later on a motorway.
A jury at an inquest into the death of Stephen Hayes, 68, of Moorview Court, Marton, heard evidence in a second day at Preston Coroners Court yesterday.
“One of the wheels has completely turned in and sparks coming from it and the driver is ‘very drunk’.”Police despatch
Mr Hayes was struck and killed by a 32-tonne HGV on the northbound carriageway of the M61 at around 1.30am on April 11 last year.
It is believed he had been attempting to walk home along the motorway, having been dropped off at the Rivington Services by a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officer there just minutes earlier.
GMP officers were called to the A6 in Bolton shortly after midnight on April 11 after two men called 999 saying they had seen Mr Hayes driving dangerously, speeding and swerving in an already damaged car.
Mr Hayes, a known heroin addict, continued to drive the Mercedes CLK four miles, despite its front left wheel having been knocked to one side and without a tyre, sending sparks flying five feet in the air, the inquest heard.
Witnesses told the court they saw Mr Hayes “staggering” and thought he seemed drunk when he pulled into a petrol station, and this was reported in a 999 call.
The lead officer on the scene, PC Matthew Picton, said: “I was asked to assist with a possible dangerous driver – driving dangerously relating to the front wheel being damaged and sparks coming from it.”
He said he was not aware of reports the driver was “very drunk” and had spoken to the witnesses at a petrol station.
A recording of a transmission from motorway network control to PC Picton was played to the court.
The jury heard a despatch controller say: “One of the wheels has completely turned in and sparks coming from it and the driver is very drunk.”
Upon finding Mr Hayes walking away from his vehicle, PC Picton said he had “very little time to observe him” before asking him to get in the police car.
He added: “I did not see him walk prior to getting to the service station.
“His speech was coherent and precise, it certainly wasn’t slurred.”
His colleague, PC Ian Henderson, a response officer, gleaned information from the two men at the scene – video footage of the car driving dangerously and reports of Mr Hayes’ demeanour.
But Mr Hayes supplied a negative reader on an alcohol breathalyser test.
Coroner Dr James Adeley queried why the pair did not share more information, which officers agreed would have led to Mr Hayes’ arrest.
Sgt Finn Quainton, of Lancashire Police’s road policing unit, the lead police investigator in Mr Hayes death, said: “I find that unusual and unacceptable.”
PC Picton said he thought Mr Hayes had “fallen asleep at the wheel” to sustain the damage to the car and said Mr Hayes had no recollection of how the damage had been caused.
The officer took the decision not to arrest Mr Hayes, despite having opportunity to under Section Four of the Road Safety Act 1988 that says witness testimony is enough to warrant arrest for dangerous driving, the inquest heard.
He dropped off Mr Hayes at the services, believing he was being picked up by a friend, where CCTV footage showed Mr Hayes swaying, but PC Picton said he did not see this.
Mr Hayes was struck and killed by the lorry, which investigating officers said had no chance to swerve or stop, at around 1.30am.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The court heard more than a kilo of heroin was found in the boot of the Mercedes when it was later recovered.
A mix of Class A, B and C drugs were later recovered from Mr Hayes body.