Man jailed for driving stolen car at police officer - Chorleywood

06/01/2015

Motorists were left shocked when a stolen car went past them on the M25 at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour - on the hard shoulder. Police officers dispatched to try and locate the Audi car later found it parked in a village lane near the motorway.

As PC David Oram approached the car it sped off, knocking him to the ground and driving over the base of his lower back and up his shoulder, perilously close to his head.

A court heard today, Tuesday, 06 January 2015, that the injuries PC Oram suffered that day now threaten his career and have left him devastated at the prospect of having to give up front line police work.

A colleague of the officer, who witnessed the sickening collision in Chorleywood near Watford, Herts, told the court how he was left in shock by what happened when his friend got out of their car to try and make an arrest. PC Stuart Fraser told St. Albans Crown Court: "When my colleague got out to approach the offender on foot, I had no idea that the driver of the Audi would take the actions that he took and, when he did so, I was struck by abject fear for my colleague's safety." The officer said one moment PC Oram was in his line of sight and the next he was "flying back though the air."

PC Fraser went on: "I absolutely felt he had been killed. I was about to get out of the car and he jumped up and I have never been so relieved in my career to see someone get off the ground. I have no idea to this day how he escaped. David was shocked he had been run over and I was shocked he had survived." He said the incident had "shaken him to the core."

PC Oram and PC Fraser sat in court just feet from where the driver, Eugene Gunderman, aged 28, of Queens Close, Old Windsor, Berks, was in the dock pleading guilty to stealing the £10,000 Audi car. Alongside Gunderman was 27-year-old Damon Denham of Kingbury Drive, Old Windsor, who had helped him steal the car from outside the owner's home in Berkhamsted, Herts last July. In addition, Gunderman alone pleaded guilty to assaulting PC Oram, dangerous driving and attempting to rob another driver of his Porsche car.

The prosecution said it was not pursuing a charge of attempted grievous bodily harm on the officer against Gunderman.

The two car thieves appeared in court today having been brought from prison where they are already serving long sentences for for tying up a jeweller and stealing thousands of pounds worth of gems from his home and shop. Last August, Denham was jailed for 13 and a half years at Guildford Crown Court and Gunderman received a 12 year jail term.

It was just days earlier that Denham had driven his friend Gunderman to Berkhamsted to steal the Audi, which was being advertised for sale in Auto Trader. Gunderman had arranged to meet the owner and take the car for a test drive on July 10. Instead, he drove away from the man's home and sped off.

Georgina Gibbs, prosecuting, said not long afterwards, drivers on the M25 saw the vehicle racing passed them at speeds of between 70 to 100 miles per hour on the hard shoulder. One motorist was to tell police it was "the worst piece of driving" he had ever witnessed.

The court was told that PC Oram and PC Fraser were part of a specialist rapid response team of officers to tackle car crime and burglaries and soon came across the Audi parked up in Shire Lane in Chorleywood, Herts. PC Oram got out armed with a baton and pepper spray and walked towards the vehicle where Denham was standing outside. At the same time PC Fraser tried to manoeuvre the police vehicle to block any escape.

Judge Andrew Bright QC hearing the case was told that it was at that point Gunderman suddenly sped off, colliding with PC Oram and then driving over him. He even drove over his accomplice Denham, who managed to get to his feet and get into the Audi before it roared off passed the shocked PC Fraser.

Amazingly, PC Oram managed to get to his feet and got back into the police car. The officers then gave chase and moments later came across a scene of mayhem in Heronsgate Road where the Audi had collided and struck a number of cars. Gunderman had then tried to hijack a Porsche motor car before being arrested.

Denham had made off on foot, but in nearby Long Lane had aroused the suspicions of local residents who had called the police and he was also detained.

At the time both men were on bail and due to appear in court for their part in a conspiracy to rob a jeweller. The pair had been part of a gang that burst into the man's home in Oakham, Surrey in October 2012, where they tied him up and stole £22,000 worth of jewellery. Then he was taken to his shop in nearby Cobham where he was forced to unlock the premises. The gang then snatched nearly £100,000 worth of gems before he managed to escape and flee into the street.

Today, Judge Bright was told that Gunderman had decided to steal the Audi last July as a way of trying to raise some money for his partner and their child, knowing he was likely to be going to prison for a long time.

In court today PC Oram told the judge how having got back into the police car after being run over he had even taken part in a foot chase as the defendants made off. He said it was only after they had been arrested that he collapsed in the front garden of a house. The officer said his back was "never going to be 100 per cent," but he loved his job and hoped to remain on the team as a front line police officer for as long as his back allowed him to.

PC Oram said what happened to him that day had changed him as a person. He told the court his temperament had changed and he was not as "happy" as he once was, admitting that he would lose his temper for no reason. He said: "I never used to be like that," and he said he was due to receive professional help.

Passing sentence, Judge Andrew Bright jailed Gunderman for a total of 4 years and 10 months, which will run consecutively to the 12 years he is currently serving.  In addition, Gunderman was banned from driving for 5 years and told he must take an extended driving test. The judge sentenced Denham to 9 months imprisonment.

He told the pair: "This was the pre-planned theft of a valuable motor vehicle, to which you were both party. I sentence you on the basis that this was a joint enterprise, carefully planned.

Judge Bright then turned to Gunderman, reminding him of the words PC Oram had used when describing in a statement what had happened to him. "He said 'I genuinely thought I was going to die' and from the evidence he gave, so did PC Fraser." The judge went on: "It's perfectly clear that both had been psychologically damaged by what occurred and it's had a continued psychological effect on both of them. I am quite satisfied that both officers thought PC Oram was going to be killed."

Please note - all court copies are provided by South Beds News Agency, who retain the copyright for all articles published.