Traffic policeman 'killed pensioner after hitting 104mph on bend of country road during training exercise'

A traffic policeman on a training exercise reached 104mph on a country road before losing control and killing another driver, a court has heard.

PC Sean Schofield, 38, was driving a high-performance Volvo T5 when he crossed on to the wrong side of the road at a bend.

The police car smashed head-on into a VW Touran, killing driver Peter Williams, 67, and injuring his wife Jean, 65.

Sean Schofield leaving Liverpool Magistrates Court
Andrew Massingham

On trial: Pc Sean Schofield (left) and Pc Andrew Massingham, his training instructor driving a second vehicle, outside Liverpool Crown Court

The couple, from Bolton-le-Sands, Lancashire, were on their way to a holiday in the Yorkshire Dales when the crash happened near Over Kellett in North Lancashire in November 2006.

Liverpool Crown Court was told it was a stretch of road 'peppered with hidden hazards' which had a 60mph speed limit.

Schofield and Pc Andrew Massingham, 41, the instructor for the exercise, deny causing death by dangerous driving.

The court heard Schofield was testing an in-car speed recording device by following Massingham, who was driving a similar car, and taking readings of his speed.

crash couple

Victims: Peter Williams was killed and wife Jean was injured in a head-on collision with a police training car testing a speed camera device on a country road

Pc Massingham, also qualified as an advanced police driver, was the instructor for the training exercise and was in a police Volvo T5 ahead of Pc Schofield's car.

It is alleged he was dictating the speed his trainee was driving - and therefore equally responsible for the crash.

Nick Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the jury, both cars were being driven at 'excessively high speed' which was 'obviously unsuitable and dangerous' for a B road in the countryside.

The jury heard the crash happened around 1.40pm on Thursday November 2, a fine clear autumn afternoon.

Mrs Williams, a retired hospital radiographer, spotted the two police cars coming towards them at high speed.

She saw Pc Massingham's car, travelling at up to 95mph, clear a bend, but the second police car close behind appeared to 'wobble', cross on to the wrong side of the road and on to the grass verge.

Mr Williams could not cross onto the other side of the road to avoid Pc Schofield - as he may have hit the lead police car driven by Pc Massingham.

crash scene

Crash spot: The police car involved in the accident on this road was being tailed by another, a Volvo, fitted with a VASCAR device, designed to calculate the speed of the vehicle in front

'Mr Williams literally had nowhere to go,' Mr Johnson told the jury.

'The inevitable followed - a high speed, high impact head-on collision. You may think it remarkable anybody survived frankly.'

Mr Johnson said the officers were not on a course to test their driving skills.

The purpose of the course was to test an in-car VASCAR (Vehicle Average Speed Computer And Recorder) device, with Pc Schofield training how to use it by recording the speed of Pc Massingham's car in front.

A black box device fitted to police cars showed, in the 30 seconds before the crash, that Pc Schofield hit speeds between 65 and 104mph and Pc Massingham between 86 and 95mph.

Both ignored 'Slow' signs and hazard warnings dotted along the lane, it is alleged.

Pc Schofield, who became a traffic policeman five months before the crash, later told investigators he had not seen hazard signs and he did not believe his speed had been unsafe - as it was 'dictated' by Pc Massingham, the trainer.

Pc Massingham told investigators he was 'staggered' by the suggestion he was responsible for the other car's speed, and denied driving his vehicle recklessly.

'This was a road peppered with hidden hazards - blind spots, entrances to properties, junctions, bends, dips and a hidden hump in the road,' Mr Johnson added.

'It was the combination of the bend, the hump and the grossly excessive speed that undid Pc Schofield, causing him to lose control and cross on to the wrong side of the road.'

The hearing continues tomorrow and is expected to last for two weeks.

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