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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
'Drop-off death' officers accused
Michelle Wood
The body of Michelle Wood was found in a field
A mother died from hypothermia after being left by police officers miles from her home because a sergeant wanted her "off his patch", a jury has heard.

Hull Crown Court was told the body of heroin addict Michelle Wood, 25, from Grimsby, was discovered near New Waltham, Lincs, in February 2003.

Her body was found a month after two Pcs left her there following an arrest.

Pc Andrew Wood, Pc Ian Clark and Sgt Andrew Hickinbottom all deny a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence.

She was thin and gaunt, her clothing was wet
James Goss QC, prosecutor
Jurors were told how the mother-of-three had been driven to a point on the A16 during the evening by the two Lincolnshire officers and left outside a motor dealers.

She had earlier been arrested in Louth on a "shoplifting expedition" with her younger sister Caroline, brother Terry and another man, Dean Pryme.

In Louth, the court heard, Miss Wood was seen to be acting very strangely - hallucinating, rambling in her speech and "talking rubbish" - before her sister was arrested and taken to Skegness Police Station.

Miss Wood was later arrested herself after a local resident spotted her trying to open car doors and walk down the side of a bungalow.

Officers took her to Skegness Police Station but released her without charge.

No doubt some of the thinking behind that decision was that she would then be 'off his force's patch' and no longer the Lincolnshire Force's responsibility
James Goss QC, prosecutor
James Goss QC, prosecuting, said the custody officer at Skegness Police Station, Sgt Hickinbottom, ordered Pc Wood and Pc Clark to drive Miss Wood to the boundary of the Lincolnshire and Humberside Police Force areas.

Mr Goss said: "Physically she was thin and gaunt. Her clothing was wet.

"The custody record revealed she had no money nor did she have a mobile phone."

He added: "Sgt Hickinbottom took the decision that she should be taken towards her home in Grimsby, not right to it.

"Rather, she should be dropped off that night at the boundary between the Lincolnshire Police force and the Humberside Police force.

"No doubt some of the thinking behind that decision was that she would then be 'off his force's patch' and no longer the Lincolnshire Force's responsibility."

'Reasonable' action

Mr Goss told the jury all three officers had breached their duty of care towards Miss Wood given "their respective knowledge of her physical and mental condition, personal circumstances and the prevailing weather conditions."

Weather records showed the temperature in the area dropped to almost -8C.

Miss Wood's body was discovered 200 yards from where she had been dropped off and did not have a fleece she had been wearing in the station.

Mr Goss said Pc Wood told detectives it had not occurred to him to take Miss Wood to Grimsby and dropping her at the car dealership, which was close to a service station, was "a perfectly reasonable thing to do".

Sgt Hickinbottom, 40, and Pc Wood, 44, and former Royal Marine Pc Clark, 43, have more than 50 years police service between them.

The trial continues.




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