Thames Valley Police "acted appropriately" when handling a report concerning a driver's ability five days before a triple fatal crash on the M40, a watchdog has ruled. 

Three people were killed when a Subaru - driven by High Wycombe pensioner John Norton - and towing a caravan went the wrong way down the M40 between junction 7 and 6 on October 15 last year. 

His partner, Olive Howard, also from High Wycombe and a driver of a Ford Mondeo, Stuart Richards, 32, from Stockport, also died in the horrific crash. 


It was revealed that five days before the crash, Mr Norton had been involved in a minor incident - striking a parked car - and police had been called. 

Because of Thames Valley Police's previous involvment, the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) launched an investigation into their handling of the previous crash. 

The IOPC has now said that TVP followed "appropriate policies and procedures". 

Bucks Free Press:

Photo by Ed Nix

Five days before the fatal crash, Mr Norton was involved in a minor crash in High Wycombe with a parked car. 

At the time the drivers exchanged details and the owner of the parked car reported the incident to the police via 999 during which he was advised to submit a report online, which he did the same day.

In the report he raised concerns over the Subaru driver’s fitness to drive, stating the other driver appeared to be slow to react.


TVP policy states that a lack of independent evidence means the report could have been closed.

However, on October 12, the report was assessed for further review because of the concerns raised over the driver’s ability and was passed to the relevant team. 

The IOPC's investigation concluded that the call handler graded and handled the 999 call on October 10 appropriately.

They also found that TVP acted in accordance with their policies and timescales in assessing the online collision report.

The report was passed to Thames Valley Police in April  and they have agreed with the findings. 

Regional director at the IOPC, Sarah Green, said: “This was a terribly tragic incident and my thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with the families and friends of those who died.


“We found that Thames Valley Police handled the initial emergency 999 call and the subsequent collision report appropriately and in line with its policies and procedures

"There was no way to predict, from the information the force had, the catastrophic sequence of events that would result in the tragic loss of three lives.” 

An inquest into the three deaths, held in April this year, found that Mr Norton, Mr Richards and Ms Howard had all died as a result of a road traffic incident.

The inquest heard that Mr Norton had been suffering with brain cancer and "may have been confused" at the time of the crash.