Woman and boy dead in Penge as stolen car pursued by police 'hits family'

Emergency services on Lennard Road Image copyright Shulem Stern
Image caption The car crashed into pedestrians walking along the pavement in Lennard Road, Penge

A woman and a boy have been killed after a car being chased by police mounted a pavement and crashed "into a family" in south-east London.

The car was being pursued along Lennard Road, Penge, when it struck the group at about 14:05 BST, witnesses said.

The woman and boy died at the scene, while three girls were taken to hospital with "multiple injuries", London Ambulance Service (LAS) said.

A man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

The 23 year-old remains in custody in a south London police station, the Metropolitan Police said.

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Media caption"They were all trapped under the car" - Richard Galpin reports
Image copyright Shulem Stern
Image caption The police watchdog has been informed about the crash

A witness said the car was being chased by two police BMWs when the driver "lost control and ploughed into a family".

"People were trying to lift a car off a little girl," the man said.

Another witness, Venissa Vassell, said about 20 people lifted the car and the girls "crawled out".

One girl who was taken away by ambulance was screaming, "I can't feel my legs", Ms Vassell said.

Man 'in bushes'

Ilya Baxter, 23, saw the police chase from a window in his flat.

He described seeing a white man aged between 18 and 25 running across the road around the corner from the crashed car, before police caught him.

He said: "I heard the cars and saw someone pointing to the police where he went. I knocked on the window and pointed."

He said that the man was hiding in the bushes. Police then caught the man, handcuffed him, and then went to help the injured, he added.

Analysis: Nick Beake, home affairs correspondent, BBC London

The majority of police pursuits in London take place at relatively low-speed and end quickly when the driver pulls over.

But there's been concern about a recent rise in the number of people killed in car chases.

The police watchdog says there were 13 deaths in the UK in 2015/16 - during or after police chases - up from six the previous year.

In London in 2015/16 there were three deaths, up from one the previous year.

The Metropolitan Police philosophy is that no pursuit is worth risking the safety of the public; that travelling through built-up areas at more than 40 or 50 mph is simply not worth it.

With the amount of CCTV on the streets of the capital, tracing vehicles is easier than ever, although watching a suspect get away is clearly galling for officers, and a great worry if the suspect poses an immediate threat.

Sources say it's become increasingly common for a senior officer - monitoring events in real-time in the police control room - to call off a chase if they feel the risk to the public has become too great.

Often, the control room will try to scramble the most highly-trained pursuit officers to take over. They are in the minority, though, and the body that represents rank and file officers, the Police Federation, has said a reduction in specific road policing officers nationally has led criminals to think they can get away.

With fewer specialists on the roads, more chases will be allocated to officers who don't have the daily experience of high-speed pursuits.

The details of what happened in Penge are still not clear. But this crash shows once again how devastating the consequences of police chases can be.

Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has sent investigators to the scene, and appealed for witnesses to contact them.

Image copyright Venisha Sudra
Image caption Ambulance crews and the air ambulance attended the scene

Over the last 10 years, 252 members of the public have died following road traffic incidents involving the police in England and Wales, according to the IPCC.

In London there were 498 crashes involving a pursuit by Met officers in 2015-16.

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