Court hears teen killed police officer in "cowardly and merciless act"

CourtsBy Niamh Cluskey
Court hears teen killed police officer in "cowardly and merciless act"

Teenager Clayton Williams murdered a police officer in a "cowardly and merciless act" by running him over in a stolen truck, Manchester Crown Court has heard.

Clayton Williams, 19, gave Pc Dave Phillips "no chance" as he struck him in the Mitsubishi 4x4 truck, while the officer was deploying a stinger device to end a high-speed police pursuit, Manchester Crown Court was told.

The 34-year-old officer, a father of two, was tossed into the air before falling, lifeless, on to the road, seconds after the incident in Wallasey, Merseyside, last October. His injuries were not survivable.

Williams, then aged 18, claimed he did not intend to injure or kill the officer and denies a charge of murder.

Pc Phillips' widow Jen sat in the public gallery, yards from Williams in the dock, as the jury of nine women and three men listened to Ian Unsworth QC outlining the case against the defendant.

The prosecutor said that, in the early hours of October 5 last year, Williams, of Wallasey, and another man, Philip Stuart, 30, of Prenton, Wirral, had burgled a shop in Birkenhead, stealing the keys to the Mitsubishi.

The truck was spotted by an unmarked police vehicle and the officers gave chase, shortly joined by another patrol car, which began recording the pursuit, which will be shown to the jury, on a camera.

Williams drove at "vastly excessive speeds", Mr Unsworth said, along narrow residential roads, through red lights, on the wrong side of the road and struck a parked car during the chase.

Mr Unsworth continued: "All this was done in a determined and ruthless attempt to avoid being apprehended.

"Those same ruthless qualities came to the fore when he approached the police officer who would be killed.

"The officer, Police Constable David Phillips, was doing no more than placing a special device known as a Stop Stick across the road.

"He was simply trying to bring the stolen vehicle to a controlled stop.

"If the defendant had driven over the device, the Stop Stick would then have acted to puncture the tyres and slow the vehicle down."

But instead of driving over the device, Williams drove off the road at his victim, the jury heard.

Mr Unsworth said: "The officer was, as you will see from the film recording, clearly visible, and, we suggest, had been for some distance beforehand.

"As events unfolded he stood little or no chance.

"Pc Phillips moved backwards from where he was. Once the truck was a very short distance from the officer, the defendant turned it sharply to the left.

"It was, you may think, a cowardly and merciless act. Pc Phillips' fate was sealed."

Pc David Phillips

The officer was hit by the front of the truck and tossed into the air, landing "lifeless" on the road with "catastrophic" injuries, and was pronounced dead a short time later despite efforts to save his life.

"He could not and would not survive his injuries," Mr Unsworth added, as Mrs Phillips sniffled and dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

The barrister told the jury that the manner in which Williams drove the vehicle at the officer showed he had the intention to injure or kill.

After hitting Pc Phillips, he then drove back on to the road in the direction of a second officer, Pc Thomas Birkett, who had to leap out of the way, before Williams fled into the night and took deliberate steps to conceal his involvement, the court heard.

Williams denies a second count of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent to Pc Birkett. He has admitted the burglary in which the car was stolen and aggravated vehicle taking.

The jury was told that Williams admits he drove the stolen car dangerously when he hit the officer, but denies murder.

Mr Unsworth said: "The prosecution contend that the defendant's actions went beyond that which he is prepared to admit.

"We suggest that the defendant used the truck as a weapon and that he used it to murder Pc Phillips."

The vehicle was taken during a break-in shortly after 1am at Oxton Estates and The EBay Shop in Woodchurch Road, Birkenhead, as the owner slept upstairs.

Williams and his accomplice snatched electrical items, a cash box, jewellery, mobile phones, fish tank accessories and the keys to the truck.

They unloaded the stolen goods at Stuart's flat in Mayfair Court, Prenton, and then drove the vehicle away.

It was spotted in Birkenhead at 1.41am by police, with Williams behind the wheel and Stuart in the passenger seat, but drove off and was next seen nearby just before 2am, when it again made off at speed, pursued by an unmarked police BMW which activated its lights and siren.

Williams clocked 80mph as he drove over several miles through Wirral during the 10- minute pursuit, at one point hitting a parked Ford Fiesta, the court heard.

A marked police Volvo joined the pursuit and began recording the chase - and captured the incident in which Pc Phillips was struck.

Mr Unsworth told the jury: "It will be necessary for you to look at the recording shortly.

"Let me reassure you from the outset, the actual moment when Pc Phillips was struck cannot be seen.

"You will, however, see Pc Phillips in the seconds before he was killed.

"You will also be able to make out his body being propelled once he had been struck by the truck."

The jury was shown a series of CCTV images and video taken from the dashboard camera of the police Volvo recording the chase, blue lights flashing, sirens blaring and police radio commentary as Williams reached speeds of up to 80mph.

The court then adjourned for lunch, after which the jury will be shown the seconds leading up to the fatal collision with Pc Phillips.

Pc Phillips, working a 10pm to 7am night shift from Wallasey Police Station with Pc Birkett, heard of the police chase and tuned in on their radios and it was clear the stolen truck was heading towards Wallasey.

He took a stop-stick, which he had been trained to use, and both men ran down to the station yard, jumped in a marked police car and drove towards the Wallasey Dock Link Road, where Pc Phillips, standing on the central reservation, threw it across the dual carriageway.

Mr Unsworth said the officer ought not to have positioned himself on the central reservation, and should have been wearing high visibility clothing, but "whatever the rights and wrongs" of that, he was clearly visible.

Just before 2.08am the truck and pursuing police cars approached the area, with Williams doing 70mph on the 30mph stretch of road, but the jury heard it was difficult to determine the exact speed of the truck.

Instead of driving over the stinger, Williams mounted the central reservation, turned sharply left and accelerated, striking the officer who was most likely standing up at the time he was struck.

The jury was shown a series of slowed-down video recordings, frame by frame, showing the Mitsubishi approaching Pc Phillips as he crouches down to deploy the stinger.

Grainy images taken at a distance show him going over the truck and his colleague running out of the way.

Pc Birkett had run towards his stricken colleague but Williams then drove at him, but the officer was able to jump out of the way as the vehicle sped past him.

Police Sergeant Martin Mayne in the pursuing police car then called out on his radio: "Officer down. Officer down."

Colleagues tried to help him and paramedics gave emergency treatment as he lay on the roadway before urgent treatment was given in hospital.

But he was pronounced dead at 3.15am in hospital, a pathologist describing Pc Phillips' injuries as "unsurvivable".

Stuart got out of the truck near to where Williams lived, who abandoned the vehicle and ran away.

He was assisted by others to help him burn and dump his clothes to destroy evidence linking him to the truck.

The vehicle was examined and had no mechanical defects.

Williams was arrested the day after the fatal incident, and when approached he told officers: "I give up, I give up," before he stated: "It's not me."

During a series of interviews he gave three prepared statements, the court heard.

In the first statement he accepted he was involved in the burglary, he was the driver of the truck and that his driving was dangerous.

He explained he moved his vehicle to the right to avoid spikes glinting on the road when his wheels locked on the kerb.

He then described how the wheels of the truck became trapped either side of the central reservation and Pc Phillips tried to pull the stinger device across.

Williams said he knew he had injured the officer in the collision but did not realise he had killed him.

He told detectives he had not consumed alcohol that night but had "a spliff".

In his second statement, Williams said he was "a cannabis addict" who was heavily under the influence at the time of the incident and his recollection was affected by that.

Mr Unsworth told the jury: "He stated that Pc Phillips had run into his vehicle. Thus he was now shifting from his account that his wheels had become locked, to one that was based upon his own drug-induced state at the time.,

"In assessing the truthfulness of that account, you may wish to consider the evidence of his driving over a period of miles. He was, we suggest, in control of that vehicle and was able to control it in very testing circumstances at high speed over a relatively prolonged period."

In his final prepared statement Williams stated his accomplice, Stuart, suggested they go around the stop stick.

Mr Unsworth said: "The harsh reality is, that for all the defendant's varying accounts, he chose to drive off the carriageway.

"He chose to drive towards Pc Phillips, a person he could clearly see. He chose to turn sharply to the left. He chose to drive directly at Pc Birkett. He chose to flee the scene and he chose to evade arrest.

"Pc Phillips had little choice. Had he chosen to leap into the carriageway in front of him, he would have risked being struck by two police vehicles. He could either remain where he was and risk being killed or move backwards and risk being killed. It wasn't much of a choice and he stood not much of a chance."

He continued: "The defendant denies that he intended to injure either officer and that this was all an unfortunate accident.

"We suggest that on a careful and dispassionate analysis of the evidence, you can be sure that this was no accident, and that the defendant murdered Pc Phillips and thereafter he drove at his colleague, also intending to strike him. Those, members of the jury, are the issues in the case."