Police blame ‘shock’ for their two versions of Hicks pursuit
An hour after fatal moped crash, officer said he had signalled Henry to stop but now maintains: ‘I was in such a state… everything got distorted in my mind. I never signalled for him to stop’
20 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch
Floral tributes to Henry at the scene of the crash in Wheelwright Street
POLICE officers who chased a popular Angel teenager on a moped before he crashed and died blamed “shock” for a change in their accounts of the night during a misconduct hearing this week.
Henry Hicks, 18, died after the moped he was driving collided with the back of a taxi in Wheelwright Street, next to Pentonville Prison, on December 19, 2014. He was being followed by two unmarked police cars at the time which had their blue lights flashing and sirens on.
Four officers, who have been granted anonymity, are alleged to have broken Met Police policy by failing to ask permission from central command to pursue the teenager.
The futures of the officers, previously based at Islington Police Station, in Tolpuddle Street, are set to be decided after a four-day misconduct hearing held at the Met’s Empress State Building, in Earls Court, this week. The officers say their actions did not count as a pursuit because they had not signalled for him to stop.
A 12-day coroner’s inquest in June last year ruled that Henry was aware he was being pursued by police known only as officers A, B, C, and D in both the hearing and the inquest. They spoke from behind blue screens at this week’s hearing, which was broadcast to members of Henry’s family and the press sitting in a nearby building.
On Wednesday, the misconduct hearing chaired by Elaine Herlihy was told that because of “shock” Officer A, who drove the Hyundai car closest behind Henry, gave different accounts of what happened after the crash.
The hearing was told how an hour after the crash, Officer A had provided a statement to an unnamed officer for a collision accident report – not under caution – which said he had signalled Henry to stop. The statement from Officer A read out by Jeremy Johnson, representing the Met at the hearing, said: “I was behind a moped on Caledonian Road which I signalled for it to stop. As soon as I put on the blue light, the moped drove off.”
Also read to the hearing was a radio transcript of messages from moments after the crash between Officer A and two officers in a Ford car, which was behind the Hyundai: “He’s failed to stop. This is going to be very serious.”
When questioned by his own lawyer, Neil Saunders, as to why he had said he had signalled for Henry to stop, Officer A said: “I’ve been a police officer for 18 years – at the time 15. I’ve been to numerous traumatic incidents. The difference with this was, when you go to a call, whatever the incident is – car crash, murder – [when] you get that call you mentally prepare for the things you may see but when I turned into the road – 11 seconds to get to the top of the road – it really shocked me to my core.”
Henry Hicks, described at the hearing as a ‘beloved son and brother’ who ‘was very popular’
Officer A added: “I never ever expected to see Henry lying there where he was and I think that’s what really affected me and that’s the reason I went into shock and it literally traumatised me and that’s why I went into auto-pilot… not functioning mentally because it was so traumatic. I could not process what my eyes were seeing.”
Speaking from behind the screen, he said: “A female came running down the road screaming. She was screaming: ‘That’s my boy.’ She thought it was her son. And I just grabbed hold of her because I didn’t want her to see, I didn’t want her to see.”
But when Officer A was cross-examined by Mr Johnson, the hearing was told that four months after the crash – while under caution – the officer still said he had used his car’s flashing lights to signal Henry to stop.
“You talk about standard of procedure but then at the foot of the page you say: ‘The use of my warning equipment seconds before turning into Wheelwright Street was to alert other road-users and facilitate progress through traffic and to draw his [Henry’s] attention to us and the fact we wanted him to pull over.’
“So you were signalling for him to stop, weren’t you?” said Mr Johnson. To which Officer A replied: “No sir, not at all.”
Officer A said Henry “never gave any indication” he thought he was being followed and the distance between the moped and the cars meant Henry was unaware of a pursuit. He also said that he would have expected a moped driver aware of being pursued to turn into an estate to lose any cars behind.
He added: “I was in such a state and shock, everything got distorted in my mind. I never ever indicated for him to stop. ”
The hearing was told how Officer B – who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the Hyundai responsible for operating the radio – had also produced differing accounts of the night in the months following Henry’s death.
In a statement for a collision accident report made an hour after the crash, Officer B said: “We spotted the moped on the junction of Copenhagen Street. A group was again around the moped. I then managed to note down the moped vehicle registration number from the distance of six to 12 feet. The moped then shot off.”
Officer B told the hearing that the distance between the Hyundai car and Henry was a “lot longer” than the six to 12 feet he previously gave.
Explaining his earlier account of the crash, Officer B told the hearing: “I was under a lot of pressure, you’re in shock. You’re kind of numb to everything. I was trying to get points across.”
The chairwoman was shown clips of CCTV footage with Henry driving at 46mph down Caledonian Road shortly before turning into Wheelwright Street and crashing. At points, he was seen driving on the wrong side of the road.
In the footage, a Hyundai car driven by Officer A is seen travelling at an average speed of 42mph around 10 seconds after Henry’s scooter. An accelerating Ford car driven by Officer C, accompanied by Officer D, at 52mph follows shortly after.
Officer A said he first noticed Henry, who was wearing a helmet, after seeing his moped’s enlarged brake light in the junction between Bemerton Street and Copenhagen Street just before 8pm. The cars followed him into Copenhagen Street and York Way, temporarily losing sight of him before spotting the teenager again in Caledonian Road, where he was standing with a group of people. The officers suspected Henry of dealing drugs.
The hearing was told Officer A, who was part of a team tackling moped-related crimes in the borough, knew enlarged lights indicated a modified bike.
The chairwoman heard that Henry’s bike, which was registered in his name but was reported stolen in April 2014, was found to have a 300cc engine made up to look like a 125cc bike.
The hearing heard that Henry was in possession of 5.7 grams of cannabis with a street value of £70 to £140. He had £230 in his pockets and had two Samsung phones on him alongside an iPhone.
Henry was on a police watch list prior to his death, the hearing was told. Just seven days before he died on December 12, in a police intelligence report made available to officers at Islington Police Station, it was reported that Henry was seen around Copenhagen Street on a black Peugeot Vespa contravening one-way streets regulations.
He was also one of five people featured in a briefing slide about moped-related crime and anti-social behaviour in the borough.
When cross-examined by the Met’s lawyer, Mr Johnson, Officer A said he did not know Henry was involved in moped-related crimes. He said: “I never seen anything that suggested he was a criminal. I didn’t know he had a moped. I’ve only ever seen him on a pedal bike.”
The hearing heard that intelligence reports were only available to officers for one day at the police station. Officers not on duty that day could miss them.
There was controversy surrounding the hearing on Tuesday when Henry’s family was barred from sitting in the same room as the officers granted anonymity by the chair.
A spokesperson for the Hicks family said: “We are extremely disappointed with the chair’s decision to exclude us from the room. We feel as though we are being treated as if we are in the wrong. We are the victims. We have lost our precious Henry.”
During the opening of the hearing, Mr Johnson described Henry as a “beloved son and brother” who “was very popular and knew the area well”.
Death that sparked campaign for justice
Wheelwright Street, scene of the December 2014 crash
THE death of Henry Hicks, a “lovely, caring” 18-year-old, just a few days before Christmas 2014 shocked Islington, writes Joe Cooper.
The former Highbury Grove pupil was a trained carpenter and dreamed of becoming a property developer.
A huge Arsenal fan, he played with the club’s youth academy into his teens.
Henry’s funeral brought more than 1,000 people onto the streets close to where he lived in Liverpool Road.
Hundreds were unable to get into the Holy Redeemer Church in Exmouth Market for a memorial service which filled the building, including a side room that had been opened up.
In the days and weeks after Henry’s death, shock turned to anger. His family have constantly asked for answers and Henry’s sister Claudia, in particular, became the public face of their campaign for justice.
A wall of flowers and tributes formed in Wheelwright Street, scene of the crash, with the message “Justice for Henry Hicks”. Hundreds joined a march on Islington Police Station in 2015.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission opened an investigation which, along with the findings of an inquest last year, resulted in four officers facing gross misconduct proceedings over their actions during the pursuit.