Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

How police car chase led to death on duty

By Chris Summers
BBC News

Four people have been jailed for a robbery and a car chase which ended with the death of a police officer.

PC Gary Toms
The death of Gary Toms shows to us the potential dangers the officers I'm leading are facing on a daily basis
Sir Paul Stephenson

Pc Gary Toms, 37, died in hospital on 17 April this year as controversy was raging about the death of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson highlighted Pc Toms' sacrifice at a briefing to reporters about the Tomlinson case.

He said: "The death of Gary Toms shows to us the potential dangers the officers I'm leading are facing on a daily basis.

"I feel a sense of pride in the courage and dedication of Gary Toms. It's a tragedy for his family and I have met his wife, mother and mother-in-law."

Pc Toms joined the Met in January 2002 and in November 2008 he moved to specialist firearms unit CO19 where his commanding officer said he was known for his "sense of humour and professional attitude".

His death followed a sequence of events which began in the early hours of 11 April this year at Onyedika Chukwuma's home in Dagenham, east London.

Mr Chukwuma had run a nightclub, Gem, in the Isle of Dogs and had employed a barmaid, 21-year-old Mary Fowler.

She had been sacked in October last year and the club later closed but six months later she contacted him and said her "cousin", James, was visiting from Sweden.

Mr Chukwuma agreed to go out with them that Saturday night and they ended up at Club Afrique in Canning Town.

Mary Fowler
Sacked barmaid Mary Fowler tried to rob her former boss

But the night out was simply a ruse and Fowler and "James" - who was in fact a friend, Mansour-Jacques Jallow - were intent on robbing Mr Chukwuma, who they believed kept a large amount of money at his home.

At five in the morning they arrived back at the house but Jallow immediately claimed he was hungry and got a taxi to a fast food restaurant.

Lyall Thompson, prosecuting, said that around one hour later there was a knock on the door and Jallow said: "It's me, James".

Mr Chukwuma opened the door and was confronted by Jallow and around six other men, who were wearing balaclavas.

They yanked the door open, pushed Mr Chukwuma to the ground and began kicking and punching him.

'Where's the money?'

He also got the impression Jallow had a gun.

The gang demanded to know where he kept "the club money" but he said all he had was what was in his wallet.

Three convicted men
Jallow (left), Iyiola (centre) and Anti-Taylor were jailed for a total of 23 years

After ransacking the house - stealing the wallet, a camera, camcorder and laptop - the gang fled and got into a silver Chrysler hatchback waiting outside.

Fowler, who up until that time had not taken part in the robbery, also ran off and got into the same car.

Mr Chukwuma staggered outside, noted down a partial registration number and phoned 999.

Around 40 minutes later, the car was spotted in Romford Road, Stratford, by a police Armed Response Vehicle (ARV), which contained Pc Toms.

High-speed chase

They followed the car as far as Great Eastern Road, where Pc Toms and another armed officer got out, aimed weapons at the car and ordered the occupants to get out.

One of them did but the car sped off.

Mr Thompson said the ARV team left the man, prioritised the car and chased after it.

A chase through residential areas at speeds of up to 72 mph followed, with the robbers going through several red lights and narrowly missing pedestrians, said Mr Thompson.

Eventually the driver, 19-year-old Temitope Iyiola, drove into a cul-de-sac, Ashlin Road, where he was briefly cornered before managing to force his way past a police vehicle.

It was around this point Pc Toms suffered a fatal head injury.

He lived a full life which held no regrets
Clair Toms, Pc Tom's widow

Following an inquiry by the Met's collision investigation unit it was decided that no criminal proceedings should be brought in relation to Pc Toms' death.

A police spokesman said: "The incident was treated as a tragic accident with Pc Toms suffering severe injuries after being jolted out of his seat inside the ARV."

An inquest is to be held in January.

His life support machine was switched off six days after the incident and his widow, Clair, paid tribute to him.

"He lived a full life which held no regrets and we are extremely proud of all that he achieved in his lifetime," she said.

Following his death, more than 4,000 people joined a group on the social networking website Facebook to pay tribute to him.


Shortly after Pc Toms was injured, Iyiola collided head-on with another police car but the two officers in that vehicle only received minor injuries.

Iyiola, Fowler and Jallow - who were in the car - were immediately arrested.

A fourth man, 19-year-old Austin Anti-Taylor, who had got out of the car earlier, was later charged after his fingerprints and footprints were found inside the house. He was sentenced to seven years in jail.

Jallow, 26, later pleaded guilty to robbery and was given six years. He will be deported to Sweden on his release.

Iyiola admitted fraud - the Chrysler had been bought with a cloned credit card - and dangerous driving. He was given nine years for robbery and one year for dangerous driving, to run consecutively.

Fowler, Iyiola and Anti-Taylor all denied robbery but were convicted by a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court, which was deliberately not told about Pc Toms' death for fear this might prejudice its verdict.

Fowler was jailed for eight years.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Broster said: "Although there is no suggestion the defendants were directly responsible, our thoughts remain with his family as undoubtedly this court case will have brought back to them the events of that night."

map of east London
1 - At around 4am on 11 April 2009 the group leave Club Afrique in Canning Town after a night out
2 - At 6am Onyedika Chukwuma is beaten and robbed at his home in Dagenham
3 - At 6.40am the robbers' car is spotted in Romford Road and police give chase
4 - PC Toms and an armed colleague get out and challenge the driver
5 - PC Toms suffers fatal injuries in Ashlin Road. Shortly afterwards the robbers' car is brought to a halt

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