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Saturday, 25 August, 2001, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Motorist killed by getaway car named
The burnt-out remains of the Vauxhall Carlton
The burnt-out remains of the Vauxhall Carlton
An innocent motorist who was killed when his car was hit by a getaway vehicle during a high speed chase has been named by police.

Graham Michael Bignell, 42, a transport manager, of High Halden, Kent, was driving along the A20 at Swanley in Kent when his car was hit head-on by a Vauxhall Carlton travelling the wrong way.

The three men being pursued by police also died in the crash on Friday, but will not be named until formal identification has taken place.

To suggest that the accident was caused by the police pursuit is premature and inappropriate

Assistant chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle

Police said they were from the south-east London area and were in their late teens and early 20s. Their next of kin have been informed.

A Kent Police spokesman said the three men's bodies were badly burned in the crash.

He said: "Owing to the nature of the crash their formal identification may take some time."

90mph police chase

Two inquiries are now under way after the high-speed police chase across two counties.

Surrey Police officers were following the Carlton - which reached speeds up to 90mph - after an alleged break-in at the Boots store in Oxted.

The first inquiry is focussing on the burglary, the second on the police chase and the accident.

Kent assistant chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle said: "We have been dealing with a scene of immense trauma and carnage."

"The car travelled down the wrong side of the carriageway of the Swanley by-pass and collided almost head-on with an innocent member of the public," said Mr Barker-McCardle.

Remains of the Vauxhall Vectra hit by the Carlton
An innocent man died in this car

He went on: "To suggest that the accident was caused by the police pursuit is premature and inappropriate, which is why the investigation has been launched."

Figures released recently by the authority showed the number of people killed during police chases in England and Wales rose sharply last year to 25.

A woman who answered the door at Mr Bignell's home said the family was too distressed to talk about his tragic death.

'Wonderful man'

The woman, believed to be a relative, said: "You don't realise what a tragedy this is.

"He was a lovely young husband and son. He was a wonderful man."

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is overseeing the investigation into the crash.

PCA member Wendy Towers said: "The PCA will ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out into this tragic incident.

"The report will then be sent to the coroner for a public inquest."

The incident was voluntarily referred to the PCA by Surrey Police.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"Police have been unable to identify the three people in the burnt out car"
See also:

10 Jul 01 | UK
Rise in police chase deaths
10 Jul 01 | Wales
Probe into police chase tragedy
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