News and Views
‘Shots fired in 100mph car chase’: Driver dies in crash fireball on the Old Kent Road
A motorist fleeing moped-riding gunmen was burned to death at the wheel when his car exploded in a fireball after a high-speed chase through London.
The man, in his thirties, died when the vehicle smashed into a bus stop and burst into flames in Old Kent Road. Part of the black Audi RS4’s engine block was thrown several metres down the carriageway by the force of the explosion, at 2.30am yesterday.
Witnesses reported shots being fired at the vehicle in the moments leading up to the crash, with some describing it as being like a “war zone” and “something from Hollywood”. It comes after a bloody start to 2015 in London, with 10 homicides confirmed so far, including three teenage killings.
Murder squad detectives appealed for witnesses to the latest incident. A Met spokesman said forensic officers were trying to establish if holes in the vehicle, which had been speeding at up to 100mph, were caused by bullets.
Witnesses said a passer-by tried to pull the victim from the burning car but was beaten back by 12ft flames before it exploded. They said the driver appeared to be trying to escape three men on mopeds, who reportedly fired at least three shots.
Residents woken by the explosion called 999 and firefighters quickly extinguished the flames, but the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
A witness at the site seconds after the crash said: “The car was in flames from the start. There was no chance of anyone getting out of it.
“Some guy who was walking past tried to open the passenger door. A woman he was with was shouting, ‘There’s someone in there.’ He tried to open the door but the flames were too big. Whoever was in that car was gone.”
Resident Carol Turner, 58, added: “I heard this huge bang, it was so loud, and I could smell the smoke from inside. I went outside and I saw the flames. The car was burning and exploding when the tyres were bursting. It was eerie and scary.
“I heard there were people on motorbikes shooting at the car. It must have been going at some speed to have done that much damage. The driver wouldn’t have had a chance.”
One person who did not wish to be named said another black car sped off after the incident, adding: “People have also heard gunfire and suggested something about gangs.”
Sarah Wilkins, 42, said: “I was woken by screaming and there was an explosion then you just couldn’t see the car at all. It was engulfed by flames. It was like a war zone. Nobody would have been able to survive that.”
A shopworker at supermarket Asda, next to the crash scene, said: “My colleagues told me the driver was speeding, they guessed over 100mph because they were being chased.”
A woman who asked not to be named said: “When I heard the bang, my first thought was that it was a bomb.
“There was a strong smell of burning inside my flat and I opened our front door to white clouds of smoke billowing out. Outside it looked like something from a Hollywood film.”
Simon Hughes, local MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said: “The thoughts of people across Southwark are with the person who died on the Old Kent Road.
“Reports of a high speed chase, a vehicle on fire, shooting and a death on the Old Kent Road are clearly horrific. We must wait for the police to get to the truth of what happened. In London we have been winning the battle against serious crime. We must not allow events now to go in the opposite direction.”
Old Kent Road was closed between Burgess Park and Rotherhithe New Road in south Bermondsey. No arrests have been made.
Detective Inspector Dave Reid, who is leading the inquiry, said : “At this stage our forensic team are working to establish the cause of the holes that were found in the car that had crashed. One line of enquiry, which we are unable to confirm until those tests are complete, is that the holes were caused by shots being fired at the car.
“I would appeal for anyone who saw a Black Audi RS4 car being driven early that morning around that area or along the Old Kent Road to contact us.”
Anyone with any information is asked to contact police at the Incident Room on 0208 721 4054 or phone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.