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Police wrong number blunder over railway death fall
BUNGLING police repeatedly dialled the wrong number while trying to shut down power to a rail line after a suspect fell on to the tracks, an inquest heard today (April 18).
Chi Nguyen had been running from officers when he fell on to the live line near Woolwich Dockyard station. He was eventually struck by a London-bound train before the power could be cut off.
A report by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards cleared police of wrongdoing and suggested the delay was down to a malfunctioning phone at the railway company - a reason investigator Detective Inspector Kirstie Masters repeated at Southwark Coroner's Court today.
Ms Masters, who repeatedly referred to the non-existent North West Rail company rather than Network Rail, said: "There was somebody on duty but, for whatever reason, the phone was ringing out but wasn't connecting."
However, she was told she had "effectively perjured" herself by coroner Dr Andrew Harris after changing her evidence following an adjournment, instead saying it appeared police had dialled the wrong number.
He asked her: "Why did your investigation not identify the wrong number was being telephoned?"
She replied: "I can only say that's purely an oversight on my part."
Mr Nguyen, 26, of Maryon Road, Woolwich, had been spotted by Catford officers at around 11.50pm on March 16 2009 "driving erratically" and was then followed into Kingsman Street.
But after police turned on their blue lights, Mr Nguyen bailed out of the car at St Mary Road, with the engine still running, and fled, scaling a fence before falling around 30ft on to the tracks at around 12.03am.
After realising what had happened the officers requested support on their radios and asked for the lines to be shut down.
But the court heard today that this was only done at around 12.24am after British Transport Police dialled the correct number rather than the one the Met had been using.
His body and severed hand were eventually found on the tracks by officers and an ambulance crew.
A post-mortem by Dr Peter Jerreat said the fall would have knocked Mr Nguyen unconscious and ruled he died from head, neck and arm injuries.
But, adjourning the inquest, Dr Harris said he was unable to conclude whether the fall killed Mr Nguyen before the train hit him and demanded more evidence from police.
He said: "I require a report from the Directorate of Professional Standards of the Met Police to explain how it is possible that an investigation into the circumstances can't identify that the wrong number was being used."