Police ‘acted appropriately’ during 89mph chase of newlywed teenage traveller couple who died in fireball horror crash, concludes report by Force watchdog
- Independent Office for Police Conduct had been investigating officers’ actions
- It came after Patrick McDonagh, 19, and his pregnant wife Shauna, 18, died
- They were killed in a crash after their car was chased by Metropolitan Police
A police watchdog has cleared officers of any wrongdoing after a teenage couple they had been chasing died in a fireball crash in west London.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct had been investigating after Patrick McDonagh, 19, and his pregnant wife Shauna, 18, were killed when their silver Renault Mégane hit a coach and burst into flames on the A40 Acton in February 2019.
Statements were taken from more than 30 officers, staff and members of the public as part of the probe.
Investigators also combed video footage, CCTV, officers’ communication over the airwaves and body-worn video recordings of the incident.
Today it announced officers had acted appropriately when they pursued the McDonaghs’ Renault Megane which had failed to stop when requested.
IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: ‘Our thoughts remain with all those affected by this tragic incident. We provided our investigation report to the MPS and HM Coroner when our investigation concluded in 2020 and we assisted the inquest by providing the evidence we gathered.
Patrick McDonagh, 19, and pregnant wife Shauna, 18, pictured together, were killed when their silver Renault Mégane was driven the wrong way down the A40 dual carriageway near Acton in west London in February 2019
Footage released today captures the Renault as it swerves onto the wrong side of the A40 towards the end of the 89mph chase, and collides with an oncoming coach. Pictured: The moment before the crash
‘It is important we establish all of the circumstances of fatal road traffic incidents involving the police when they happen.
‘The available evidence was analysed in great detail in drawing our conclusion that there was no evidence to indicate that the police caused or contributed to the tragic deaths of Patrick and Shauna.’
Mrs McDonagh had been eight months pregnant with their unborn daughter Sienna Marie, who was due to be born just four days later on Valentine’s Day.
Police began to follow the Renault after it drove through a red light and sped off as officers approached, with the couple later ‘throwing items out of the windows’ as they fled.
It was believed Mr McDonagh and his wife may have been involved in an armed robbery in which samurai swords were used – though it was later revealed the couple were not connected to the crime.
The pair, of Edgware, north west London, were pronounced dead at the scene while another man who was also in the car was taken to hospital.
Shauna was eight months pregnant with their unborn daughter at the time of the collision, a jury at West London Coroner’s Court heard
Police investigate the high-speed collision, which saw the couple both pronounced dead at the scene
The inquest at West London Coroner’s Court today returned conclusions of ‘road traffic collision’ and ‘misadventure’ for the causes of death for Shauna and Mr McDonagh respectively.
It is understood the couple were part of the Irish travelling community, the Irish Times reported.
The inquest heard from specialist collision investigator PC David Keen, who revealed the newlyweds were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
Giving evidence, he said: ‘The Renault, in an attempt to evade being spoken to and or dealt with by police officers, has driven away from police – being aware of the requirement by them to stop.
‘They have driven at speed above, and at times well above, the speed limit – putting other road users at some risk.
‘They had taken an opportunity to drive onto the opposing carriageway at a moment when the lead pursuing police vehicle could not have followed them.
The scene on the A40 near the junction of Kingsdown Avenue, Acton, west London after the crash
The teenage newlyweds were pronounced dead at the scene while a man who was also in the car was taken to hospital
‘He has continued accelerating, driving for about 0.7 of a mile – endangering the occupants of 57 oncoming vehicles and, as a result of this, has then been involved in a collision resulting in the loss of life of the occupants.
‘It is the two of three occupants not wearing seatbelt who have received fatal injuries.
‘At any point in the pursuit Mr McDonagh could have decided not to continue this manner of driving.’
He explained how the Renault’s engine had broken away and landed on the road several metres in front of the car.
Jurors previously heard how police first followed the Renault after it drove through a red light. They switched on their blue lights and pulled it over but, as an officer approached the car, it sped off.
As officers followed the vehicle they saw items being ‘thrown out of the window,’ the inquest heard.
The Renault sped through several more red lights before driving on to the A40, where it hit speeds of up to 89mph despite a temporary speed limit of 40mph.
Officers were told by the police control room that the vehicle may be linked with an aggravated burglary in the Harrow area in which thugs used samurai swords.
However, an IOPC investigation revealed the couple were not linked to the crime.
The inquest heard Mr McDonagh led police onto the A40, by which time two patrol cars and a helicopter were following him and a third was en route.
Officers lay in wait on slip roads armed with stingers – spikes used to deflate car tyres to bring pursuits to an end – but the Renault continued.
Eventually, police were forced to abandon the chase after the Renault drove into oncoming traffic at Gyspy Corner in Acton – making it too dangerous to continue.
Around 60 seconds later, officers on the ground received a radio transmission from the helicopter telling them there had been a ‘big impact’.
The inquest heard how a man was seen stumbling from the front passenger side door with a cut on his forehead. After officers saw he had no weapons, he was given first aid before an ambulance arrived.
Emergency services found Shauna lying on the back seat with her head hanging out of the window. An officer who tried to give her first aid found she had no pulse.
The inquest heard evidence from a toxicologist who confirmed that, except for a small amount of paracetamol in Shauna’s system, neither Shauna nor Mr McDonagh had consumed drugs or alcohol.
A post-mortem revealed that Mr McDonagh died from ‘traumatic rupture of the aorta’ while Shauna died from ‘head, chest, and abdominal injuries.’
Closing the hearing, Coroner Chinyere Inyama said: ‘We will never know why Patrick drove how he did.’
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