Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit

17 June 2024, 15:02 | Updated: 17 June 2024, 15:29

Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit
Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit. Picture: Alamy

By Will Conroy

A Metropolitan Police offer has been found guilty of gross misconduct after an aspiring child actor and his aunt were killed by a joyrider during a high-speed pursuit.

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PC Edward Welch had been pursuing Joshua Dobby who was driving a stolen Ford Focus in Penge, south-east London in August 2016.

Dobby lost control after going down a 20mph road at 60mph before mounting the pavement and hitting 10-year-old Makayah McDermott and his aunt Rozanne Cooper, 34.

PC Welch did not stop to help Makayah and his aunt, a misconduct panel heard. They found this to amount to gross misconduct.

Makayah had appeared in an Asda advert, a production of Wizard of Oz and was set to appear in a leading role in a major new television series when he was killed.

Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit
Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit. Picture: PA

The officer was cleared over the deaths following a trial in December 2022 and will not be dismissed but was issued with a final warning.

The panel also concluded that the pursuit itself amounted to misconduct because PC Welch had “sufficient experience” to recognise Dobby’s dangerous driving, with both vehicles travelling the wrong way down roads at high speeds.

PC Welch, of Chatham, Kent, had insisted he was trying to protect the public and said he used his lights and sirens to “alert members of the public, pedestrians and other road users as to what was going on.”

Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit
Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit. Picture: PA

Dobby, who is the son of millionaire pet food wholesaler Mark Dobby, seriously injured a second child in the incident and was convicted of manslaughter in 2017.

The car thief, who had never held a driving licence and had 53 previous convictions, left the vehicle after hitting the pedestrians while the police continued the pursuit on foot.

Former PC Jack Keher was also in the police car during the chase and was accused of gross misconduct for leaving the pedestrians while chasing Dobby on foot.

PC Edward Welch had been pursuing Joshua Dobby who was driving a stolen Ford Focus in Penge, south-east London in August 2016.
PC Edward Welch had been pursuing Joshua Dobby who was driving a stolen Ford Focus in Penge, south-east London in August 2016. Picture: PA

He was also accused of not challenging PC Welch’s driving and while the case was proved, the panel concluded he would not have been dismissed if he was still a serving officer.

There was no alternative sanction the panel could impose, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said.

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said the officers' actions in pursuing the stolen car at three times the speed limit in a busy area were "not proportionate or justified given the apparent safety risk to the public".

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“The officers also failed in their duty of care to protect lives following the collision by chasing the offender rather than immediately going to the aid of the victims," she said.

"Our thoughts remain with the families of Makayah and Rozanne who sadly lost their lives and to everyone affected by this incident," she added.

PC Welch’s legal representative read quotes from his character references, saying he was a “talented” and “top-performing police officer” who made an “error in policing decision”.

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