Police officer describes seeing partner Pc Dave Phillips 'flying into the air'


A rookie police officer told a court how his partner was mown down and killed in front of him as they scrambled to stop a teenage car thief.

Pc Thomas Birkett, 23, was just out of probation and teamed up on the nightshift with more experienced Pc Dave Phillips, 34, when he was run over by a Mitsubishi pick-up truck driven by Clayton Williams in Wallasey, Merseyside, in the early hours of October 5 last year.

Williams, 19, who denies murder, is accused of using the vehicle as a "weapon" as he gave his victim "no chance" when he deliberately ran the officer down at speed in the truck, in a "cowardly and merciless act".

Pc Birkett told Manchester Crown Court he and Pc Phillips had scrambled to help catch Williams, driving the vehicle stolen an hour earlier in a burglary in Birkenhead, which was being pursued in a high-speed chase by two police vehicles.

As Pc Birkett entered the witness box, trial judge Mr Justice William Davis said to him: "Forgive me for saying so, you are quite young. How long have you been a police officer?"

The witness said he had just finished his two years as a probationary officer when Pc Phillips was killed.

Pc Birkett said as a young officer he used to "love it" working with the older man, affectionately known by all as "Phillips", because with him, "every shift was a good shift, apart from ... "

The pair had left Wallasey Police Station in a squad car before father-of-two Pc Phillips crouched down on the edge of Wallasey Dock Link Road ready to deploy a stop-stick or stinger device to puncture the Mitsubishi's tyres at it approached them at up to 80mph.

Pc Birkett said: "The vehicle continued down the hill, appeared to be gathering a lot of speed, like a train coming down a tunnel."

He told the court he was positioned 150 metres further down the road with Pc Phillips ahead, deploying the stinger when he was hit.

The officer, his voice breaking with emotion, said: "He was just standing up, in my opinion to try and run.

"The vehicle mounted the kerb, all four wheels were on the central reservation, the lights were so bright ... and it hit Phillips, high, on his shoulder, seen him flying into the air, spinning a couple of times and then landed on his head in the middle of two lanes.

"It was horrible to see.

"I just wanted to get to Dave, I wanted to get to Phillips."

But as he ran to his stricken colleague he said the pick-up truck then "came at me" and he had to run and jump onto the grass verge as the vehicle passed him.

Pc Birkett added: "It sounds stupid, I could feel the amount of air passing me and the road rumbling.

"Then it drove off, it drove away."

He ran to Pc Phillips but his colleague had suffered "catastrophic" injuries, described as "unsurvivable" by a pathologist and pronounced dead in hospital a short time later.

Judge Davis said: "Have you ever seen anything like that before?"

"Never," the officer replied, "I never want to see it again".

Williams admits being the driver of the Mitsubishi but denies murder, claiming he did not intend to injure or kill the officer.

He also denies a second count of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent to Pc Birkett.

He has admitted the burglary where the car was stolen and aggravated vehicle taking.

The jury have been 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 the dark shape of the officer going over the truck and Pc Birkett running out of the way.

The trial continues.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow when the jury will be taken on a site visit to view the area where the police pursuit took place and where Pc Phillips was killed.