Police driver tells of horror crash

PUBLISHED: 19:56 22 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 06 May 2010

The aftermath of the fatal crash outside Herts Police HQ

The aftermath of the fatal crash outside Herts Police HQ

A VISIBLY-upset police officer recalled the horror of a night which resulted in the death of a former St Albans High School pupil when he gave evidence today (Wednesday) at an inquest. Student teacher Charlotte Edwards, aged 19, died following a head-on

Charlotte Edwards died in the crash

A VISIBLY-upset police officer recalled the horror of a night which resulted in the death of a former St Albans High School pupil when he gave evidence today (Wednesday) at an inquest.

Student teacher Charlotte Edwards, aged 19, died following a head-on crash with Pc Martin Matthews' police car on the evening of June 19 last year.

The week-long inquest heard that Miss Edwards, who had shared a bottle of champagne with close friend Charlotte Phillips and had been drinking in two St Albans pubs, was two-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit when the accident happened.

Giving evidence, Pc Matthews told inquest jurors that he thought he was going to die in the accident which left Miss Edwards dead and her passenger Miss Phillips of Netherfield Road, Harpenden, seriously injured.

His patrol car burst into flames after colliding with Miss Edwards' VW Polo which was travelling on the wrong side of the road just outside police headquarters in Stanborough Road, Welwyn Garden City.

Recalling the moments before the accident, he said he had twice spotted Miss Edwards in her Polo. She had flashed her headlights at him and twice had her hazard lights on which prompted him to try to find her car. The next thing he knew headlights were coming at him on his side of the road.

Pc Matthews suffered a fractured tibia and his colleague Pc Karl Goulding broke his arm.

He told the inquest that they were trapped inside the burning car and he couldn't open his door. But HGV driver John Farley managed to smash the passenger window and get both officers out of the vehicle.

Pc Matthews, an advanced driver on the force's road traffic unit, has had nine operations since the accident and said he still suffered flashbacks. He was off work for nine months.

He said: "It was a devastating evening and I'm extremely sorry for the family's loss."

Earlier in the inquest expert witness Sgt Malcolm Jackson told jurors that although evidence showed the patrol car's speed to be 75 to 83mph, Pc Matthews had not been driving too quickly.

He refuted suggestions from Lee Gledhill, representing Miss Edwards' family, that there were inconsistencies between the Pc's recollection of the crash and the evidence.

Sgt Jackson told the inquest: "He was more than capable of controlling that car at that speed on that road."

Miss Edwards, who lived in South Mimms, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and Miss Phillips, also a former student at the High School, was unable to remember the crash or events leading up to it.

The girls had spent the evening drinking in Lloyds Bar and the Cross Keys in St Albans and were understood to have been staying with Miss Phillips' brother Adam in Coopers Green Lane, St Albans.

They are thought to have taken a wrong turn on the way back from a late-night shopping trip to Tesco in Hatfield when the accident happened.

The inquest continues.

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