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Police officers 'declined to help store manager struggling with thief'

Published 21/09/2015

Four PCs are facing a misconduct hearing in Merseyside
Four PCs are facing a misconduct hearing in Merseyside

Four police officers who were flagged down by a store manager as his colleague detained a thief just a matter of feet away, allegedly said they were "not kitted up" to help and drove away.

Merseyside Police officers Pcs Jonathan Webb, Mark Higgins, Joanne Parr and Paul Birch had been travelling in a police car along Dale Street in Liverpool when they were flagged down by Tesco deputy store manger David Markey.

He asked them for help as a security officer Shaun Rigby apprehended the thief - named Fagan, in the road after fleeing the shop.

The officers are subject to a misconduct hearing after allegedly declining to help.

They all deny that they breached standards of professional behaviour.

During the misconduct hearing held in Wavertree, Merseyside, the panel was told that the incident occurred around 9.15pm on December 5, 2014 when they were hailed down by Mr Markey.

He reported that his colleague Shaun Rigby was struggling with the suspected thief in the road and needed assistance.

The hearing was told that Pc Webb, who was sat in the front passenger seat, wound down his window but declined assistance saying he was not "kitted up".

It is alleged that they then drove off - all failing to provide either direct assistance or assistance by way of causing another patrol to attend.

The interaction between the officers and Mr Markey was said to have lasted nine seconds.

Mr Markey was forced to call 999 but before officers were able to arrive, Mr Rigby was assaulted by Fagan "kicking or kneeing" him in the head.

The hearing was told that the incident came to the attention of Merseyside Police following a complaint by a member of the public.

Counsel for the appropriate authority, Mr James Berry, said Merseyside Police had considered it to be "a very serious" complaint.

The panel must decide if the constables' conduct fell below the standards of professional behaviour and whether it amounted to gross misconduct or not.

Mr Berry said: "Mr Markey hailed down a passing police vehicle. The officers in that vehicle did not give assistance but drove off."

He said that because of Fagan and Mr Rigby's position in the road they had been "vulnerable to traffic".

Mr Berry told the hearing that Pc Webb had been sitting in the front passenger seat.

"He wound down the window to speak with Mr Markey. Mr Markey's evidence is that he'd detained a shoplifter and pointed towards Fagan and Mr Rigby who were a matter of feet away from the car."

He added that Pc Webb had said words to the effect of "we are not tooled up" or "we are not kitted up".

Mr Markey asked for them to radio for assistance which he said he would do before driving off.

Mr Berry said that the officers' propositions were "extraordinary and incredible" and said that the two Tesco employees had "no reason to lie, no reason to exaggerate, no reason to embellish".

He added: "They were just doing their job in difficult circumstances and rightly and properly expected help of those officers."

CCTV played to the panel showed Mr Rigby struggling with the offender.

However it is the officers' case that they did not see the struggle despite it being in close proximity to the car.

It is Pc Webb's case that he maintains that Mr Markey did not tell him that a shoplifter had been detained and did not ask him for radio assistance.

Mr Berry said it was the officers' "duty to assist".

"All maintain as well as not seeing the struggle in the road they did not hear or pay attention to what was said.

"Mr Markey was quite clearly seeking assistance. Each of the officers were aware that assistance was required and the conversation was taking place a few feet from where they were sitting."

The hearing is expected to last four days.

Security guard Mr Rigby said he had been left "vulnerable".

He said: "I felt I was left vulnerable in that situation. I was pretty much left out to dry.

"For four officers to drive up and say they can't help and drive off especially on a busy road, it left me very vulnerable."

He said although he did not hear what words were said from the car, he said he heard Mr Markey say "you're not tooled up?" as if repeating back what he had been told.

Mr Markey said: "He (Pc Webb) could hear me because he responded. I was nervous, there was oncoming traffic, the fella on the floor was trying to squirm, get away, fighting with the guard. It was a dangerous situation."

Roy Fagan, 31, of Westmorland Drive, Liverpool, later pleaded guilty to stealing £4.62 worth of Jack Daniels alcohol and guilty to assault by beating in relation to Mr Rigby.

He was handed an eight week prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

Applications to dismiss the cases of Pcs Parr and Birch on the grounds of no evidence were rejected by the panel.

The disciplinary hearing reconvenes tomorrow.

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