Northern Ireland

Warrenpoint police deaths inquest: Death crash 4x4 still used

Crash scene Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Four police constables died in the crash near Warrenpoint six years ago

The police are still using the type of 4x4 in which four officers were killed, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd has told an inquest.

He said he was confident that they are safe and fit for purpose.

The four constables died when the armoured vehicle crashed and caught fire in County Down in November 2008. They were travelling down a dark, wet road to help a colleague.

The drivers family said the vehicles are unsuitable.

ACC Todd stated that he did not think that the driver of the Shogun, Constable James Magee, had been driving beyond the safe limits of the car or that particular road, and that the Shogun was not an unsuitable choice for him to make that night.

He said: "If I'd been the driver on that night, I would have acted in the same way."

He was unable to confirm whether the non-driving officers had received training in the use of the vehicle's escape hatches.

"I can't look at any of the families here today and tell them hand on heart that the officers who died were trained in the those escape hatches. I'm not able to do that," he said.

ACC Todd confirmed that there was no evidence of testing the Mitsubishi Shoguns when they were first purchased and modified with armour, but that testing since the accident has reassured him of the vehicle's safety.

He said that he would not have continued to allow officers to use those vehicles if he had any remaining concerns.

Due to the rural nature of policing in Newry and Mourne, combined with the high threat level, armoured saloons are simply not appropriate a lot of the time, he said.

The following steps had been taken since the accident, he said:

  • Armoured Mitsubishi Shoguns are used in driver training.
  • Kit and people carried in the Shoguns is limited to enable access to emergency exits.
  • Officers training includes refreshing their use of emergency escape hatches.

ACC Todd was the district commander covering Newry and Mourne at the time, and was responsible for 700 officers.

He was the final witness to the Coroner's inquest, and told the court that he had been present for most of the evidence because "these were my people".

Constables Kevin Gorman, James Magee, Kenny Irvine and Declan Greene were killed by a fire in their 4x4 after it crashed.

The crash, near Warrenpoint was the single biggest loss of life in the PSNI's history, and the exact cause of the accident has not yet been established.

A lawyer for Kevin Gorman said that Mr Gorman's family believe the officers were in a vehicle that was unsuitable for the task and which could have contributed towards the accident.

A verdict is expected on Friday.

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