Police ‘flaws’ in M61 lorry death probe

Stephen Hayes, 68, died after he was hit by a lorry on the M61.
Stephen Hayes, 68, died after he was hit by a lorry on the M61.
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Two police officers were given “completely different” information when dealing with a call to a vulnerable man who was hit and killed by a lorry just minutes later, an inquest heard.

Stephen Hayes, 68, died instantly when he was struck by a 32-tonne HGV on the northbound carriageway of the M61 as he attempted to walk to Blackpool in the early hours of April 11 last year.

He had been picked up by officers in Bolton after he crashed his Mercedes before abandoning it.

One of the officers drove him to Rivington Services believing he was being picked up by a friend.

But 15 minutes later, he had wandered on to the motorway and was hit by the lorry.

During the first day of the inquest, a jury was told two Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers responding to reports of dangerous driving in Bolton at 12.30am had gathered information on the first crash but failed to communicate their findings to one another, leaving Mr Hayes to his own devices.

The coroner told GMP bosses: “I really do have concerns you had two police officers investigating one crime who didn’t communicate with one another before leaving the scene.”

Mr Hayes, from Blackpool, was a heroin addict and had visited Leeds earlier that day “to buy dope”.

Two men, who witnessed Mr Hayes driving a silver Mercedes CLK at around midnight with “sparks flying five feet in the air” from serious damage to the front left wheel, called police.

The pair told the inquest, held at Preston Coroners Court, they feared for Mr Hayes and others’ safety as he drove erratically along the A6.

When he pulled over, they stopped to talk to him but said he “didn’t seem right”.

The inquest heard a breakdown in communication between a road policing unit, which picked up Mr Hayes after he had abandoned his vehicle, and a response unit, which spoke to the witnesses at the scene, meant crucial questions were not asked.

Ch Insp Rachel Buckle of GMP said: “Both officers have a duty to speak to each other and pass on information.”

Response unit officer PC Ian Henderson said he believed his colleague had information about suspected drink driving from the same radio channel he heard it on.

Road policing officer, PC Matthew Picton, said he was on a “completely different” radio channel to his colleague and did not have prior information about Mr Hayes.

He did not ask his colleague for the information he had gleaned from the two young men, nor did his colleague volunteer this information.

The witnesses had shown video footage to police at the scene of Mr Hayes driving dangerously and erratically and reported their concerns about his demeanour.

Mr Hayes reportedly told PC Picton he had no recollection of how he had come to damage his car so seriously.

Both officers inspected the Mercedes, noting its “extensive” damage.

A police check found the vehicle belonged to Mr Hayes’ ex-partner and was not stolen and a conversation ascertained he was not unwell.

Police chiefs told the inquest that had they seen a car being driven dangerously they would have reasonably suspected drink driving, a stolen vehicle, driver illness, or drug driving.

But at no point was it pursued whether Mr Hayes was under the influence of drugs, the inquest heard.

And a check made by PC Picton did not show up that the man was known to police.

This meant Mr Hayes was dropped off by PC Picton, who believed he was being picked up by a friend from Rivington Services.

But he died around 15 minutes later, hit by a 32-tonne articulated lorry which had no chance to stop upon seeing Mr Hayes in the middle of the unlit carriageway.

His medical cause of death, found by pathologist Helen Stringfellow, was from multiple injuries.

HGV driver David Ireland, a part-time teacher and volunteer, wept as he told the court about what happened that night.

He said: “I saw him and just felt total disbelief. I jumped on the brake but I couldn’t swerve. I keep thinking about it, I’m just so sorry.”