Onese Power inquest: ’22 years later, our agony goes on’
Coroner looks again at death of biker in police pursuit
28 February, 2019 — By Samantha Booth
Onese Power died in Augsut 1997
THE wife of a motorcyclist who died while being chased by police in Camden two decades ago said the family “needs closure”, as a second inquest began into his death.
Father-of-three Onese Power, 51, died during a high-speed police pursuit in August 1997.
A previous inquest was held in 1998 but it was decided by the High Court in December 2017 that a fresh hearing should be launched in the interests of justice.
Ann Power, 71, told a jury inquest on Monday that her family had “never given up on getting to the truth” about Mr Power’s death. During the first inquest, she had no legal help in court.
She told St Pancras Coroner’s Court: “We simply cannot understand how such a skilled and experienced motorcyclist, as Onese undoubtedly was, could or would have lost control of a motorbike, with which he was so familiar, on the gently arcing section of road as the two pursuing police officers allege.”
Mrs Power added: “Onese would never ever have wanted to have left us. Although life has had to go on around us, my boys and I have been stuck in our own personal grief that we have been trying to come to terms with for the last 21 years, and for this we need closure.”
She said the family knew the first inquest was “unsatisfactory”, unaware of most of the details in the case as she entered the court. Former police officer Stephen Collier, who was driving the marked police car, told the inquest he noticed Mr Power come past them “in excess” of 30mph on Camden Road.
At the next set of traffic lights, near Holloway Prison, Mr Collier said he pulled in behind the motorcyclist.
He said Mr Power, who was wearing a helmet, then looked over his shoulder and “noticed us”.
“As we pulled off I put my blue lights and sounded the horn and flashed my lights,” he said. Asked why he waited until he moved off to do that, Mr Collier said: “I don’t remember a particular reason.”
He said it then looked like Mr Power was going to stop but he pulled away from them towards Holloway Road. The pursuit, through several red lights, then carried on along Tufnell Park Road, to Fortess Road and then along Kentish Town Road at speeds between 40mph and 80mph, he said.
They then went around residential streets before rejoining Kentish Town Road.
Mr Collier said that Mr Power’s bike hit a bollard before he flew off and hit a second bollard on the corner of Royal College Street and Saint Pancras Way. He died the same day at the Royal Free Hospital.
Asked by senior coroner Mary Hassell why the pursuit had taken place, Mr Collier said: “Initially it was because it was excessive speed.”
He added: “By pulling over momentarily and accelerating harshly away I felt there was more to it than just speed.”
Asked by Ms Hassell whether the officers now believe they should have stopped the pursuit because it was too dangerous, Mr Collier said: “That was always a possibility and something I would have considered. The difference with Mr Power is that he did seem to be a good rider and did seem at the junctions to slow down and navigate them carefully, which is unusual in a pursuit.”
Mr Collier said that during the pursuit they received information from the police control room that the registration on the bike was apparently false and it came back to a car. Along Kentish Town Road, there was a change in how Mr Power was riding, the court was told, as he did not slow down at a traffic light.
Asked by the coroner whether he thought it was right not to abandon the pursuit, Mr Collier said: “Yes, I think it was the right decision.”
Mrs Power’s barrister, Sean Horstead, went through Mr Collier’s statement from 20 years ago.
Mr Horstead said “96 per cent” of the words used in statements by Mr Collier and his fellow officer Steven Heatley, who was in the passenger seat, were identical.
Mr Collier said: “The reason they are so similar is that we wrote them at the same time.”
He added: “Things have changed since then.” The officer denied being in a “red mist” – when judgement is clouded during pursuit.
The inquest, expected to last until next week, continues.