Police failings contributed to death of Wentworth Golf Club greenkeeper, 39, who drove into the Thames and drowned as officers watched from the riverbank, inquest rules
- John Byrne died after deliberately driving his van into the River Thames in Surrey
- Officers were told not to enter the water where Mr Byrne was trapped in his van
- Surrey Police were also blamed for blunders which saw 999 calls downgraded
- Coroner investigating death ruled the jury could not return a verdict of suicide
John Byrne (pictured) died after driving his van into the River Thames at Shepperton in Surrey
Police failings contributed to the drowning of the greenkeeper at the prestigious Wentworth Golf Club, an inquest jury has ruled.
John Byrne died after deliberately driving his van into the River Thames at Shepperton in Surrey, after a heavy night of drinking.
The inquest heard how officers were told not to enter the water where Mr Byrne was trapped in his van screaming for help, and instead watched on from the riverbank.
A coroner investigating his death ruled that the jury could not return a verdict of suicide.
However, after almost nine hours of deliberation, the jury reached a narrative verdict and blamed Surrey Police for a series of blunders in its control room.
The inquest in Woking had heard how police sergeant Danielle Mead had gone home from duty and had not personally handed over the incident to a colleague.
The jury also heard that the alarm over Mr Byrne, who had previously said he was going to drown himself in the Thames at Shepperton, was downgraded from a police response of one hour to no response at all.
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This was due to an automatic regrading by Surrey Police’s ICAD computer system which the sergeant was unaware of.
The blunder meant that for more than an hour, Surrey Police was unaware of the impending tragedy and no police response was dispatched.
The inquest heard how sergeant Danielle Mead (left) had gone home from duty and had not personally handed over the incident to a colleague, while Inspector Gary Cross (right) ordered his men not to enter the water to try and save Mr Byrne
During this time, Mr Byrne placed planks of wood on the riverbank to use as a launch pad for driving his van into the water.
The jury had heard from Inspector Gary Cross that eventually officers arrived at the riverbank.
They watched on helplessly as Mr Byrne screamed, shouted and cried for help to save him as his van slowly became submerged bonnet-first into the 12ft deep river.
However, Insp Cross issued an order that his team should not go into the water to try to save Mr Byrne as it was too dangerous in the dark and cold.
The jury did not comment in the verdict on Insp Cross’ decision but instead issued a rider to their narrative verdict that the actions of Surrey Police during the evening of December 8, 2016 contributed to the father’s death.
Mr Byrne could be heard screaming and shouting for help and banging against the windscreen of his vehicle even after his vehicle became fully submerged.
Therefore, coroner Darren Stewart ruled that the jury of seven men and four women could not return a finding that he had died as a result of suicide.
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