A fatal road traffic collision is being investigated as manslaughter after officers discovered the collision was caused by the deliberate puncture of a tyre on the vehicle involved.
The collision took place on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, on the A45 near Earls Barton and saw 32-year-old Joanna Smith, of Northampton die at the scene.
A thorough investigation of the collision has determined that a tyre on Joanna’s black Honda Jazz had been deliberately damaged prior to her starting her journey.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Kinchin from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) Major Crime team is leading the manslaughter investigation, he said: “While investigating the incident that led to Joanna’s death, our Collision Investigation Team established that it was likely that tyre failure caused a loss of control of the car.
“The tyres from Joanna’s car were then sent to scientists who are specialists in the examination of tyres, who concluded that one of them had been deliberately punctured.”
Following the collision officers were informed by members of the public that a further three vehicles parked in close proximity to Joanna’s had also had tyres damaged at the same time.
Joanna’s car was parked in a communal car park near Budgens at Grange Park when it was damaged. It is believed that the tyre had only partially deflated and that she did not realise it was punctured when she started her journey to work.
DCI Kinchin added: “After being informed by the scientists that Joanna’s tyre had been deliberately damaged, coupled with the other three incidents in the area where Joanna lived, we contacted the Crown Prosecution Service for advice about how the case should proceed.
“Following their feedback we are now investigating the collision as manslaughter. We believe that someone deliberately damaged the tyre on Joanna’s car which ultimately resulted in her death.
“We do not believe Joanna was specifically targeted but was the tragic victim of senseless vandalism.”
Officers from the Collision Investigation Team and members of the South Northants Safer Community Team, which is responsible for Grange Park, have been working in the area since Joanna’s death to identify any witnesses or anyone who may have any information about the tyre damage.
They will continue to work together alongside members of the Major Crime team which is leading the manslaughter investigation.
DCI Kinchin said: “This is a complex investigation, which we believe is the first of its kind in the UK, and as such has a large number of resources from various departments within the Force working on it.
“We would like to speak to anyone who may have any information regarding the deliberate damage of tyres in the Grange Park area over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in April.
“We are also looking at a number of similar incidents of tyres being damaged during the night of Monday 30 July, in Roade.
“The proximity of the village to Grange Park and the fact that this type of incident is extremely rare in Northamptonshire means we have to look at the possibility that they could be linked.”
Officers believe the person who damaged Joanna’s car may not have realised the full implications of what they were doing.
DCI Kinchin added: “Although we do not believe the person who damaged Joanna’s car set out to cause her death, their actions had a very serious outcome.
“Anyone committing this kind of crime needs to stop and think about the potential consequences of their actions. Joanna’s death shows that people can and do die from this kind of criminal damage.
“We believe someone knows who the offender is and would ask them to think about the impact Joanna’s death has had on her family and friends, and ask them to give us any information they may have.
“Anyone with information about the damage to Joanna’s car can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 if you are worried about leaving your details with us, or the Operation Houston investigation team on 101.”