Another night, another tragedy on the roads of Greater Manchester.

On Monday, April 19, residents on the A6 in Stockport were woken at 1am by several 'loud bangs' after a Fiat Punto smashed into a BMW before hitting a bollard and then two parked cars.

The Punto was left flipped onto its side with smoke and flames flickering from the bonnet.

One witness told how people rushed out from their homes and managed to push the wrecked car back onto its wheels and pull the driver out.

Sadly, despite the best efforts of police who gave CPR at the scene, the man died.

He was later identified as 24-year-old Diyar Khoshnaw from Sale, in Trafford.

Paying tribute, his family said he ran a popular barbers and had recently become a father.

Greater Manchester Police later confirmed the crash happened after the Punto Mr Khoshnaw was driving had 'failed to stop' for officers.

As a result, the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), is investigating the full circumstances that led to the fatal incident.

Six deaths in six months in Greater Manchester

Paddy Connors, left, and Tommy Sharp

Mr Khoshnaw's death is the latest in a series of fatalities on the roads linked to Greater Manchester Police in recent months.

Since September, six people, almost all young men, have died following after failing to stop for police in our region.

First Paddy Connors, 36, and Tommy Sharp, 29, died after a Mercedes C Class they were travelling in crashed into two other cars in Frederick Road, Salford.

Then Shae Marlow, aged 16, died after a VW Golf he was driving smashed into a wall in Stalybridge in November.

Kyle Hudson, also aged 16, died after a pursuit started in Handforth, Cheshire, and ended with a crash in Bramhall, Stockport, the same month.

Ronaldo Johnson, 17, died six days after the Ford Focus he was a passenger in crashed into taxi in Withington on 31 March.

Shae Marlow

Official figures published by the IOPC show that the number of road deaths involving police has fluctuated considerably among forces from year to year, so it is difficult to compare GMP to others.

For example, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, forces which serve smaller populations than Greater Manchester, both had five deaths in 2018-19, but then zero and one respectively the following year.

Our neighbouring force Merseyside police had one road death in 2018-19 and one in 2019-20.

The largest force in the country, the Met, had seven road deaths in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Given the relatively small numbers involved each year it makes sense to look at the overall total over a longer period of time.

The number of road deaths involving police forces in England and Wales hit a ten-year high in the year 2018-19, when there were 42.

In that year, Greater Manchester Police was linked to only one.

The UK total then fell to 24 in 2019-20.

But it is in the two years since April 2019 that GMP has started to see numbers increase.

Kyle Hudson, also known as Brotherton

There were six deaths in 2019-20.

They include 19-year-old Tull Connor following a crash in Manchester city centre,17-year-old Deon Simpson following a crash in Burnage, dad-of-four Craig Davies following a crash in Tameside, 14-year-old Leo Gradwell following a crash in Wigan and 26-year-old student Shiqiang Zhou following a crash in Bolton.

And of course, in the last six months, there have been a further six.

So while it cannot yet be concluded that GMP is a complete outlier when it comes to being linked to road deaths, the string of incidents within a relatively short period of time raises the question of whether a pattern is emerging.

Ronaldo Johnson, 17, died after a police chase ended in a horror crash in Withington, Manchester

'It will be interesting to see if similar themes come out'

Each of the fatal crashes will be subject to an IOPC investigation that is likely to take several months, if not a year or even longer.

If investigators feel mistakes have been made, they may recommend that a police officer face action, ranging from internal disciplinary proceedings up to criminal charges.

The IOPC will hand their evidence to either GMP or the Crown Prosecution Service to carry out their recommendation.

It is very rare for police officers to be prosecuted over pursuit deaths - the IOPC said that of the 97 independent investigations completed between 1 April 2012 and 30 September 2017, just two officers were prosecuted for pursuit related incidents.

No officers were convicted.

Diyar Khoshnaw

Once the IOPC investigation and any criminal proceedings are complete, a coroner will then explore what happened at an inquest.

Kelly Darlington is an associate partner and head of inquests at Farleys solicitors in Manchester.

She told the M.E.N the firm currently has an unusually high number of instructions for road death cases linked to police.

Farleys is currently acting for families in seven such cases, of which six relate to Greater Manchester Police and/or Cheshire Police.

Kelly says she's not sure why she has more GMP cases than usual at the moment.

But she expects several of the inquests to be heard by the same coroner in Manchester and that it's possible links between them will emerge.

"The coroner will be looking at police pursuit policies," she said.

Thomas Patrick Connor, 19

"One of the things that families always ask is, whether the pursuit needed to take place at all when the seriousness of the [suspected] crime is quite often relatively low, compared to the risk to the public.

"It will be interesting to see if similar themes come out [of the upcoming inquests] and whether the coroner makes any recommendations around risk assessments or policies, or whether pursuits are proportionate."

Newcastle student Shiqiang Zhou lost control of his car on the A6

'Concern' at Greater Manchester Police

Nick Bailey, Assistant Chief Constable at GMP, is responsible for Specialist Operations including roads policing.

He joined the force from Cheshire in July 2019 and says one of his first actions was to set up a 'dedicated group' to examine pursuits.

While he doesn't believe GMP currently has a problem, he says 'isn't happy' about the number of deaths relating to police contact and is looking at whether policy and practice can be improved.

"Certainly it does alarm me when we have any death following police contact," he said.

"Because of that concern I set up a dedicated pursuit group to look at how we manage pursuits in Greater Manchester.

"It's not the place you want to be where police are involved, in its broadest sense, when people die.

"From my perspective I came to the conclusion some time before I arrived at Greater Manchester Police that the way we manage pursuits needs to be as professionalised and structured and accountable as the same way we manage firearms incidents.

"We put a lot of professionalism around [firearms], a huge amount of training, and we avoid, thankfully, using those tactics very often and having to take lethal action.

"What we're finding with the number of [road] incidents, some of these people are dying and there is no more grave consequence to police action than that.

"So we set up a group to look at pursuits in its broadest sense not just the ones that cause fatalities."

'An awful lot of police pursuits get called off within minutes'

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey, Greater Manchester Police

All officers at GMP are in three categories of driving capability: basic, standard and advanced.

Only advanced drivers who've been on a course are permitted to engage in pursuits.

ACC Bailey says he wants more frontline officers to have more advanced training so that as many officers as possible understand the risks and decision-making around stopping vehicles.

There are also management teams based in force control who speak to officers during an incident and have the authority to call off a pursuit.

"As a pursuit driver you're taught to drive within your own skills, but be very much aware of the surrounding circumstances," said ACC Bailey.

"If it is not safe to continue that pursuit you should call it off.

"An awful lot of police pursuits get called off within minutes."

Any collision involving a police vehicle - whether a pursuit or otherwise - is reviewed by the Drivers Standards Board on which ACC Bailey is the chair.

Officers can have their driving permissions removed by the Board or by a more senior officer immediately after an incident.

GMP also has an internal points-style system where officers can receive warnings over standards of driving and be asked to do more training.

'Greater Manchester has some of the most uninsured vehicles in the country'

Not all of the deaths involving GMP in recent years have been pursuits, in the strictest sense.

Some may have involved incidents where police indicated they wanted a driver to stop, the driver failed to do so, then fled the scene and crashed.

"Very often what you'll see when they are investigated is that we know [police officers] have abandoned pursuit," said ACC Bailey.

Police have closed Coldham Lane after a transporter vehicle hit a railway bridge
Not all GMP officers are allowed to take part in a pursuit

"What can happen is that the collision occurs some way off from where the police officers were, so they weren't directly behind.

"That's not mitigating... all the families deserve the investigation, to have it looked at and reviewed, and absolutely we accept that we come under scrutiny when somebody dies.

"But the heading of 'police pursuit' is not always an accurate reflection."

ACC Bailey said he was unable to comment directly on any of the fatal incidents linked to GMP as they are currently under investigations.

But asked why he thinks GMP might have been involved in so many deaths in recent years, he said he believes it relates to the wider picture of low-level crime in the region.

"Greater Manchester has some of the most uninsured vehicles on the road in the country," he said.

"What we we know from academic evidence which has been done nationally is drivers who are uninsured tend to be drivers who may not have driving licence, may not have MOTs, these are proven facts around people who don't have insurance.

"Uninsured drivers have more vehicle defects and are more likely to speed.

"All of this is evidenced by the thousands of incidents that take place around the country.

"Since January this year we've had 1,238 cloned vehicles identified on Greater Manchester roads - people who've actively sought to put a different registration on their vehicle to avoid speeding tickets, or to avoid all sorts of things.

"Under Operation Tutellage, we issue around 230 tickets a week to uninsured vehicles that have been identified via ANPR."

Greater Manchester has one of the highest number of uninsured drivers on the road in the country

"Tutellage sends out letters to those addresses, tells them they've been seen driving and it appears they haven't got insurance and they should get it asap.

"That has a 66 per cent compliance rate.

"What we have to do is target the remaining third of those cars.

"Without drawing any conclusions on individual cases, what we're seeing is we have more cars making off from police vehicles than times gone by.

"It's absolutely because they are uninsured, potentially cloned vehicles, don't have MOTs, have vehicle defects, the costs of driving are clearly considerable and they're costs that many people on the roads choose to avoid.

"When you and I are on roads and the blue lights go on, we would just pull over.

"And if it was a speeding ticket we'd take it because we've got insurance and we take the £60 fine or whatever it is.

"But with that many [uninsured] vehicles on the road in Greater Manchester there is no doubt that we are seeing a considerable number more vehicles drive off from us."

'The reality is, those police officers don't know why that vehicle's not stopping'

ACC Bailey says the regions roads are becoming increasingly dangerous - and GMP is having to adapt quickly to deal with the situation.

The number of deaths in traffic collisions is increasing year on year, with 68 last year and 50 the year before.

"Our Serious Collision Unit is having to grow substantially, because the time we are having to put in to investigate these incidents, they are investigated on a parallel as if it were a murder," he said.

"We also seized 680 vehicles in January alone for having no insurance, 589 in February, and 668 in March."

Some might argue that failing to have insurance is a fairly minor crime compared with the risk of death in a police pursuit.

Raids were conducted by Greater Manchester Police in partnership with City of London Police
GMP is having to increase its serious collision unit to cope with the number of road incidents

Responding to that point, ACC Bailey said: "I absolutely get that, but when you look at those independent investigations and see, those police officers who do pursue, do so in a safe manner in accordance with their training.

"The reality is, those police officers don't know why that vehicle's not stopping and the history of policing and police officers on the road is littered with officers who can sense something's not right.

"I've seen examples of finding murderers in cars for no other reason than having a light out, all those kind of things that officers are trained to do.

"When you look at 68 people dying, what we are seeing significantly are patterns of organised crime groups being linked to these deaths, in the manner in which they behave, we are seeing sometimes stolen vehicles involved in accidents, in a growing number of cases.

"The point I'm trying to make is, there's a huge link between criminals and their use of vehicles on the road, their failure to be insured, their failure to want to be identified.

"And once you don't keep those things up to date you don't check tyres, all those kind of things that make your vehicle more dangerous."

Police are increasingly finding that people caught for not having insurance can also be linked to bigger criminality.

A dedicated team - Operation Wolverine - has been set up just to work on this task, ACC Bailey revealed.

"That team is just growing in its workload," he added.

'We don't want to be involved in the death of anybody'

Asked if he thinks GMP compares unfavourably with other forces when it comes to road deaths, ACC Bailey said: "It's a tragedy for any one of those cases - we dont want to be involved in the death of anybody.

"In terms of comparison, I think the reality is, as I said, there's something about parts of the Greater Manchester population that are choosing for different reasons not to have insurance, and then we know if you don't have insurance you're more likely to commit other road traffic offences, it's not just as simple as comparing population size or other force size.

"Why does Greater Manchester have more uninsured drivers? I can only sadly go to things we know.

"We've got deprived populations, is that another causal impact of the demographics of our population? It plays out in inequalities in education, health, in many other ways in Greater Manchester so why would it be a surprise that those people can't afford to insure their cars?"

Despite pointing to these factors, ACC Bailey says he is 'monitoring' the number of road deaths linked to GMP.

He also said he wants more training for control staff and more data to be gathered on pursuits.

But he also highlighted the vast range of incidents officers can be faced with on the roads.

"We know Organised Crime Groups will quite happily flee the police, they will ram us, that's very much a tactic of an OCG now, they will take really drastic action to avoid capture," he said.

"We always know there's a balance between trying to capture people in pursuit against, perhaps we don't always know what they've done.

"If we knew it was just insurance or just speeding or seatbelts or tyres, then we would say perhaps we do call it off.

"But there are lots of pursuits we do call off.

"Do I accept that we've had those pursuits and people have died and am I happy with it? Well no I'm not happy with it.

"We continually strive to make sure we're safe in whatever actions we take and I'm accountable for this as a policy and therefore the person who holds our driving standards to account across the force.

"And I review every single one of these cases with my driving school, with the professional drivers we have to ensure we try and learn from every single accident that takes place, whether somebody dies or not.

"That is a constant thing.

"I would'nt ever accept it."

'Very often these officers have laboured long and hard to try and save lives'

Around half of the people killed in crashes linked to GMP since April 2019 have been teenagers.

ACC Bailey said every single death hits the officers involved extremely hard.

"There in itself is an issue - that you've got children driving a car," he said.

"Very often these officers that are investigated are quite often the ones who you will find have laboured long and hard immediately at the scene to try and save the lives of these young people.

"From resuscitation to stemming blood, the trauma on those staff, because they are the first at the scene.

"Interestingly our armed police are often first at the scene because they can get there quicker than the ambulance crew, and the things that I've heard of them doing in the past months and year to try and save the lives of these people, is just outstanding quite frankly.

"Of course they care a lot, this has a huge impact on them, we have to provide them with welfare support at times, because what they came out to do is protect the public.

"They were doing something they've probably done hundreds of times before in trying to stop a vehicle, whether thinking they were a criminal or a danger on the road or whatever, and most of the time the person stops, or even when they've not stopped they've been pursued safely.

"They did not come to work to have the consequence of their actions, however well-intentioned, cause the death of a young person, or somebody else.

"I absolutely understand that families, where police are involved, seek to blame us as a factor, I do understand that when you've lost your child, your loved one."