Published Date: 17.04.2007
The Police Ombudsman has concluded that a police Land Rover which knocked down and killed a man in West Belfast while answering an emergency call had its siren on at the time of the collision, despite statements from local people to the contrary.
Jim McMenamin, from Glenalina Road, was knocked down by the Land Rover near the junction of the Springfield Road and Avoca Close in the early hours of Saturday Morning June 4 2005 as police responded to an emergency call. He died at the scene.
Police Ombudsman investigators went to the area shortly after the collision, and oversaw a forensic examination of the area. The Land Rover was taken away for forensic examination. The officers on board the police vehicle were interviewed.
In the period which followed, Police Ombudsman investigators had an independent forensic examination undertaken of the area and of the police Land Rover. They also mounted a 'computerised reconstruction' of the incident and also 'live' reconstruction using the vehicle.
As a result of house-to-house inquiries, media appeals and following meetings within the community the investigators interviewed a number of people who were in the area at the time of the incident. Police documentation was also seized, including copies of the radio transmissions.
Of the people who offered witnesses statements only one person actually saw the collision. According to the witness, he had been driving along the Springfield Road when he saw the police 'jeep' with blue lights flashing pass him on the other side of the road. When he looked in his rear view mirror he saw was a young man standing at the junction, then saw him run across the road before being hit.
However, other witnesses said they saw the speeding Land Rover pass them and while it has its blue lights on, it had no siren.
The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala OLoan, said her investigators have listened to the radio transmissions which they seized shortly after the incident:
"The sirens can be clearly heard when an officer in the Land Rover responded to the call on his radio and almost one minute later after the collision when he requested for an ambulance.
We have checked and established that there was no other emergency vehicle in the area at the time. From that fact, and the volume of the noise of the siren, we have concluded that the vehicle did in fact have its siren on.
I am aware that many of the witnesses we talked to were quite clear that they did not hear a siren. I am also very conscious that the issue of whether or not the siren was on became a major issue in the media: maybe the subsequent coverage effected people's recollection of events," she said.
The Police Ombudsman's Office sent a file containing their investigations findings to the Public Prosecutions Service, which directed that there be no prosecutions.
Mrs O'Loan described the incident that night as 'tragic':
"Our investigation has uncovered a sequence of events that on any other occasion may have passed without incident, but on this occasion ended tragically for the McMenamin family. Nothing in the investigation suggests it was anything other than a tragic accident.
My thought's are with Jim's family. He appears to have been a very popular young man and I am sure he is sorely missed.
I would also like to mention the driver of the vehicle. He was clearly affected by what happened and visibly upset when we talked to him. Despite this he cooperated fully with my investigators and spoke freely and openly about what happened," she said.