Tributes have tonight been paid to a 53-year-old mother killed during a horrific crash with an unmarked police car as it chased a suspected stolen vehicle.
Heather Smedley died shortly after being taken to hospital following the ‘short pursuit’ in Oldham, Greater Manchester Police announced this afternoon.
She was driving in her car and was critically injured when a police pursuit vehicle slammed into it. The mother of three died later in hospital.
Now, in a statement released by police, her family have paid tribute to her, describing her as ‘wonderful’ and ‘the glue that held our family together’.
Heather’s family said: ‘To the most wonderful mother to Benjamin, Olivia and Jamie, daughter to Hilda and Fred, sister, friend, and wife to Damian.
‘The world was a much better place with you in it. Our mum was the most kind, gentle, beautiful soul inside and out. She faced all of life’s challenges with her beautiful smile, and her bravery and courage never wavered.
‘We could not have asked for a better role model growing up, giving everything she had to all of those she loved, and always supporting those around her.
‘She was the glue that held our family together. Her resilience and kindness inspired us all to be better. She had the greatest sense of humour and contagious laugh that we will miss every single day.
‘You were too good for this world Mum, there will be a hole in our hearts forever. Heather’s family have asked for privacy while they grieve for their loss.’
The fatal smash took in Shaw Road, Oldham, in Greater Manchester, on Friday morning. Police were scrambled at 10am to chase a suspected stolen vehicle.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said an unmarked police car and a ‘car driven by a member of the public’ crashed.
The IOPC said Heather suffered ‘serious injuries…and died in hospital later this morning’, and confirmed she was not in the vehicle police were pursuing.
It’s understood the Heather had been in her car during when the crash took place and was not a pedestrian.
She was taken to hospital for treatment to serious injuries, but died a short time later.
A spokesman from Greater Manchester Police said: ‘At around 10am today (Friday 23 December 2022), officers pursued a suspected stolen vehicle and engaged in short pursuit as a result.
‘A short time later a road traffic collision occurred involving a police vehicle and a woman, aged 53, was taken to hospital for treatment to serious injuries, but sadly died a short time later despite the best attempts of emergency service personnel.’
Chris Bowen, Chief Superintendent of GMP’s Oldham district said; ‘Our sincere thoughts and condolences go to the family and friends of the woman that has sadly passed.
‘We understand that the public are concerned by incidents of this nature. In-line with normal procedure, referrals have been made to GMP’s Professional Standards Branch and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
‘Investigations like this often result in road closures which can cause significant disruption and we thank the local community and road users for their patience.’
An IOPC spokesperson said: ‘After being notified by Greater Manchester Police we deployed investigators to the scene and to the police post-incident procedure to begin our inquiries.
‘Initial accounts from police officers involved are being obtained. Our thoughts are with the woman’s family and friends at this awful time and all those affected by this tragic incident.
‘Our investigation will examine the circumstances leading up to the collision and whether police actions were in accordance with policies and procedures.’
A huge police presence remains at the scene of the collision, with cordons in place near the junction with Water Street.
Paramedics from the North West Air Ambulance service had been scrambled to the scene. An ambulance was also sent to the scene.
In a statement earlier today, the service said: ‘We can confirm that the North West Air Ambulance Charity was called to an incident in Oldham on the 23rd of December, and H72 responded. We have no further information at this time.’
The crash has been reported to the force’s Professional Standards Branch and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Anyone with information or dashcam footage should contact Greater Manchester Police, quoting incident log 969 of 23/12/2022.
Information can be reported online or by using the LiveChat function at www.gmp.police.uk. If you can’t report online, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.