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Police driver being investigated over death of woman hit in car chase

Heather Smedley’s car was hit by a police vehicle which had been chasing an Audi A3 that officers believed to be stolen.

A police driver is being investigated over the death of Heather Smedley in Greater Manchester in December (Family Handout/PA)

A police driver is under investigation in connection with the death of a woman hit by a police car chasing a suspected stolen vehicle just days before Christmas.

An unmarked police car collided with the Peugeot that Heather Smedley, 53, was driving on the morning of December 23, at the junction of Oldham Road and Otmoor Way in Oldham.

The police vehicle had been chasing an Audi A3 that officers believed to be stolen.

Mrs Smedley, a mother-of-three, was treated for her injuries but was pronounced dead at the scene around 30 minutes later.

Two police officers also received treatment for injuries sustained in the collision which happened shortly after 10am.

After her death, Mrs Smedley’s family paid tribute to “the most kind, gentle, beautiful soul inside and out” in a statement released by Greater Manchester Police.

On Monday, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said an officer in the force is “under investigation” following the death.

The police driver, who has not been named, has been informed they are “under criminal investigation for potential offences of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving”, the IOPC said.

The watchdog added that the officer has also been served a notice “advising they are being investigated for potential gross misconduct in relation to the manner of their driving”.

The IOPC said the investigation does not necessarily mean disciplinary proceedings or criminal charges will follow.

The organisation’s regional director Catherine Bates said: “Mrs Smedley lost her life in tragic circumstances just days before Christmas. Our thoughts are with her loved ones and all those affected by her death.

“Our investigation is independent of the police and will look at the circumstances of the collision, including the actions and decision-making of the police driver.

“We have been in touch with Mrs Smedley’s family to explain our role and will keep them updated as our investigation progresses.”

All other officers are being treated as witnesses, the IOPC said, adding that the status of all officers “will remain under review throughout the investigation”.

The watchdog said a decision over any potential disciplinary proceedings or  referral to the Crown Prosecution Service will be made on conclusion of the investigation.

The coroner has been provided with details of the investigation, the IOPC said.

In their tribute last month, Mrs Smedley’s family said: “To the most wonderful mother to Benjamin, Olivia and Jamie, daughter to Hilda and Fred, sister, friend, and wife to Damian.

“The world was a much better place with you in it. Our mum was the most kind, gentle, beautiful soul inside and out.

“She faced all of life’s challenges with her beautiful smile and her bravery and courage never wavered.”

The family also described her as a “role model” with “the greatest sense of humour and contagious laugh” whose “resilience and kindness inspired us all to be better”.

“You were too good for this world Mum, there will be a hole in our hearts forever,” they said.

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