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Man drove at high speeds through Leeds whilst being pursued by police before crash, inquest finds

Wakefield Coroner's Court
Wakefield Coroner's Court

A man who died after a crash following a police pursuit ran several red lights, drove onto the wrong side of the road, collided with a taxi and clipped a pedestrian before the incident, an inquest has found.

Tesfa Hughes, 26, died from his injuries after the black Volkswagen Golf he was driving collided with a white Audi on Roundhay Road in Leeds just after 7pm on May 20, 2015.

The father, who lived in Chapeltown, drove at high speeds, not wearing a seatbelt, whilst being pursued by a police car in the run up to the crash, an inquest jury has found.

He was confirmed dead at Leeds General Infirmary at 8.20pm after being treated both at the scene and in hospital.

A narrative conclusion was recorded by the jury, at the Wakefield Coroner’s Court inquest, which finished on Monday.

Part of it reads: "Evidence showed that before the collision with the white Audi, Mr Hughes was driving inappropriately.

"Mr Hughes wasn't wearing a seatbelt, failed to stop, drove through several red traffic lights, drove on the wrong side of the road on a section of Regent Street, drove well in excess of the 30mph speed limit, had a minor collision with a taxi on Sheepscar Street South, 'clipped' a pedestrian causing minor injuries and 'clipped' a second taxi a few metres before the collision with the white Audi.

"It is not clear why Mr Hughes did not stop."

The jury found the police officer involved in the pursuit, who had more than 20 years of experience of traffic policing and had been involved in around 100 pursuits, was appropriately trained.

It said he was justified in beginning the pursuit, which lasted 1 minute 27 seconds, based on the way Mr Hughes was driving.

Part of the conclusion said: "For the whole period of the pursuit, the police officer maintained a reasonable distance behind Mr Hughes. We, the jury, believe that the pursuit distance didn't put pressure on Mr Hughes to drive inappropriately."

It was not clear exactly when the officer ended the pursuit, the finding said, but it was likely between the junction with Grant Avenue and Roseville Road and the junction with Roseville Road and Roundhay Road. The officer was unable to tell the control room when he aborted in real time, as staff there were speaking to him and his radio did not allow both parties to talk at once.

But when communication from the control centre ended, he said: "I've aborted, oh he's crashed."

The jury said it believed the officer ended the pursuit at "the most appropriate" point.

But it said staff in the control centre were unable to fully assess the risks involved due to a number of factors including not having a live video feed from the marked police car to allow them to see what the officer was seeing and the officer only being able to use his 'push-to-talk' radio to contact them when he was driving in a straight line.

Mr Hughes had a full driving licence and was insured to drive the vehicle. The jury said it was not clear if low levels of cocaine and MDMA detected in the post-mortem would have affected his ability to drive.