The Irish mother who lost her family in a car crash on the last day of their holiday in England yesterday told the inquest: “I lost my everybody.”
Elber Twomey, from Cork, told her story through tears in an effort to make sure that changes are made in police procedures when dealing with suicidal drivers.
“Up to 2.46pm on July 6, I had not a care in the world,” said Ms Twomey. “I was on holiday with my darling husband and best friend Con, our beautiful little man, baby Oisin, and our beautiful unborn daughter. At 2.47pm our wonderful life ended.”
The head-on collision happened in July 2012 after a suicidal taxi driver drove into the Twomey family’s car on the final day of their holiday in Devon.
The crash claimed the lives of Ms Twomey’s husband, son, and unborn daughter, as well as that of driver Marek Wojciechowski.
Police were treating Mr Wojciechowski as a high-risk missing person at the time, and a police car with its siren on and lights flashing had been speeding to catch up with him and signal him to stop.
Sixteen-month-old Oisin Twomey died in the crash; his father Con died 10 months later in May this year in hospital from his injuries. Ms Twomey suffered serious head injuries.
She was 24 weeks pregnant and lost the daughter she was carrying.
Ms Twomey said: “I will always be of the opinion that the manner in which the police dealt with Marek that horrific day was completely wrong.
“To my absolute horror, the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into our crash states that ‘no learning outcomes or organisational learning was identified’. I totally reject this finding.”
Ms Twomey told the court that Marek “was not driving erratically, he did not have his wife and children with him, and he had not indicated that he would end his life using his car.
“The poor man was unwell,” she said. “He was no criminal, he had not robbed a bank or murdered anyone.
“So then why the following at speed, the activation of the siren, the blue lights flashing and finally the hand gestures [telling him to stop].
“Marek had driven 11 circuits around Hamelin Way that day without doing anything wrong. Who knows? Had the police not intervened, Marek could have just got tired of driving and gone home, or gone to a friend or ran out of fuel.”
She believes that the flashing and sirens of the police car caused him to panic. Ms Twomey called for the introduction of a principal of “least intrusion until stingers and a safe location to stop can be utilised”.
“Please God, these will be in place before another innocent family has to experience such complete loss, total heartbreak, and extreme tragedy,” said Ms Twomey.
“While I don’t blame the police officer involved personally for my tragic story, I do blame the police service. I do believe that the police service needs to review their handling of how they deal with a missing person who is known to have left a suicide note.
“Regretfully, changing how the police handle cases like that of Marek will never change my life and bring back my beautiful family and the wonderful life I had. I loved being baba Oisin’s mom and I loved being Connie’s wife.”
Mr Wojciechowski’s widow Agnieska, who lives in Torquay with two young daughters, also called for changes in the light of the tragedy.
She said: “No one should have to go through this. I just hope that in the future, lessons can be learnt about how people who are at risk of suicide are handled.
“I have lost my husband and my friend, and my children have lost their father. We all loved him so much and miss him and pray for him every day.”
She said her thoughts, sympathy, and prayers were also with the Twomey family.
The 10-man jury spent nearly five hours reaching their verdicts.
They found that Marek Wojciechowski died of multiple injuries as a result of deliberately driving his car into the path of another in an attempt to commit suicide.
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