A policewoman once regarded as a ‘poster-girl’ for her force was today jailed over a horrific car smash which left a teenage boy with catastrophic brain injuries.
As PC Sarah De Meulemeester was sentenced, the devastated mother of Khia Whitehead – aged 15 at the time of the crash in 2020 – said she would ‘never forgive’ her for her recklessness.
Khia was hit while crossing the road when De Meulemeester – part of a convoy travelling at up to 61mph in a 30mph limit – passed a traffic island on the wrong side of the carriageway with her view obscured by road signs.
His mother Laura Whitehead said she would ‘never forgive’ the officer for ‘destroying his life’ and taking ‘everything from us’, adding: ‘My family’s life has been torn apart.’
PC Sarah De Meulemeester was ‘caught up in the adrenaline of the moment’, when among officers responding to a 999 call , a court heard
Khia Whitehead was hit while crossing the road when De Meulemeester – part of a convoy travelling at up to 61mph in a 30mph limit – passed a traffic island on the wrong side of the carriageway with her view obscured by road signs
In a harrowing victim impact statement read before De Meulemeester’s sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court, she said her son will never graduate or have children of his own’.
She said: ‘You took that away from him. Instead he is now trapped in his own world with no quality of life….I will never forgive you for destroying his life.’
Ms Whitehead described sitting at his bedside begging him not to die and the ‘torture and agony’ of ‘preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.’
The court heard Greater Manchester Police officer De Meulemeester was driving the second of three marked police cars en route to a serious domestic violence incident when she struck Khia.
Khia was standing in the hatched area behind the island with a friend when the first police car, with its blue lights on, sped past.
De Meulemeester’s trial heard Khia was distracted watching the car after it passed and stepped into the road not realising the defendant’s vehicle and another GMP car were following.
The court heard that although the first car in the police convoy had its siren and flashing lights deployed, De Meulemeester hadn’t switched hers on.
Previously a talented schoolboy footballer having professional trials with League Two club Rochdale FC, Khia was left ‘trapped in his own world’ following the collision in Stockport, Greater Manchester, in the evening of Boxing Day 2020.
He needed 11 operations – including four described as ‘life-saving’ – and was initially left in a persistent vegetative state.
Although there has been some slight improvement, Khia will still require 24-hour specialist nursing care and therapy for the rest of his life.
De Meulemeester, pictured receiving a certificate, was convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving after a trial last month and, today, she was jailed for two-and-a-half years, and banned from driving for three years and three months
Belgian-born De Meulemeester – a student officer who was not authorised to speed – had slowed to 42mph before the collision, the court heard.
She was convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving after a trial last month and, today, she was jailed for two-and-a-half years, and banned from driving for three years and three months.
Judge David Aubrey, KC, told her: ‘I suspect you were caught up in the adrenaline of the moment and had left all objectivity behind.’
‘You should not have been driving at the speeds you were and never have been tempted as a basic driver to follow your colleague in the manner in which you did.
‘Had you driven at the speeds you should have done, you would have arrived at the scene but a few seconds after your colleague.’
The judge said that a pedestrian witness described the police cars as ‘flying’ and thought: ‘You idiots.’
Before the accident, the court heard Khia was ‘a loveable, cheeky, funny’ lad.
But Judge Aubrey said: ‘He (now) is trapped in his own world, cannot talk or communicate and has no function in his arms or legs.
‘It is impossible to imagine the suffering of his loved ones.’
De Meulemeester had achieved her ambition of joining the police after studying for a degree in criminal investigation and policing before working as a call handler.
After being sworn in as an officer in 2019, she appeared as a recruitment ‘poster girl’ alongside Greater Manchester’s then chief constable, Ian Hopkins.
The court heard the police convoy had accelerated to speeds of up to 61 mph on a dark and rainy night after hearing over the radio that the suspect had a knife – which turned out to be incorrect.
The judge said the police cars could have slowed down and passed the traffic island on the correct side of the road.
De Meulemeester, of Chinley, Derbyshire, is now likely to be dismissed from her job.
Judge Aubrey told her: ‘Your career was your entire life and you were passionate about it, highly professional, an exemplary attitude to your work, honest and compassionate. It is all now at an end.’
David Temkin, KC, defending, said: ‘She is deeply, deeply remorseful.’