Police chase did not cause death of North Walsham teenager, jury decides

Nineteen-year-old Preston Fulcher who died in a traffic collision near North Walsham. Picture Archan

Nineteen-year-old Preston Fulcher who died in a traffic collision near North Walsham. Picture Archant Library. - Credit: Archant

A police pursuit was not to blame for the death of a teenager who crashed into a tree while being tailed, an inquest jury decided today.

Preston Fulcher, 19, took his brother's car in North Walsham after a night out and was followed by police when they noticed he was driving without lights at 2.40am.

Today, after a week-long inquest in Norwich, the jury of eight returned a unanimous decision.

Giving a narrative verdict the foreman said: 'Preston Joseph Fulcher died on June 26 2016 at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital from injuries sustained in a road traffic accident close to Captain's Pond on the B1150 Norwich Rad one mile south of North Walsham.

'We the jury conclude, after reviewing the findings of fact, that whilst we feel for the loss of Preston Fulcher, we conclude that the actions of the police did not contribute to Preston Joseph Fulcher's death.'

He added: 'We agree that the level of pursuit training was sufficient and adequate and, based on the evidence given, we the jury agree that the police car was traveling at a safe distance from the pursued car.

'Within the 97 seconds our evaluation is that the information given to the Central Control Room was sufficient.

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'While we understand Preston Fulcher was under pressure we do not believe he was put under any additional pressure.'

MORE - Family of death-crash teenager say police were partly to blame, despite inquest verdict

The accident happened on June 26 last year.

During the inquest last week, the jury heard Mr Fulcher was 'drunk but able to walk and talk properly' when he returned home from a night out at around 2am.

Area coroner Yvonne Blake said Preston had been out with his brother Ben, they returned home in North Walsham together, and Ben went out

for around another half an hour then returned to find Preston was gone.

'He said Preston didn't have permission to take his car, he wasn't insured to drive it and he had a provisional, not full, driving licence,' Ms Blake said.

Police who were responding to a separate incident noticed a car driving with its lights off at around 2.40am.

Ms Blake said the marked car put its lights and sirens on but the Peugeot did not stop. She said it went through a red light and police drove at up to 80mph in a 30mph limit to close the gap as they followed the vehicle on a route around North Walsham.

'It turns into a series of very tight bends, like a snake, in an area called Captain's Pond,' said Ms Blake. 'Shortly after this the vehicle veered sharply to the right, leaving the carriageway.'

The car crashed into a tree and Mr Fulcher died from his injuries in hospital.

Pc Richard Jeffery, who was driving the police car, told the inquest the pursuit lasted around 90 seconds and covered one-and-a-half miles.

He said he could not recall how close he was to the vehicle in front. Asked by the family's lawyer, Sean Horstead, if he was three to four metres behind while travelling at 75mph in a 30mph zone, he replied: 'At those speeds I would not have been that close to the vehicle in front.'

Responding to a suggestion by Mr Horstead that he should have terminated the pursuit as the risk had escalated, Mr Jeffery said: 'I haven't done anything wrong in terms of what I've done and I followed the training.'

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