Newlywed 32-year-old Northampton woman was unlawfully killed after car tyres were slashed, inquest hears

Joanna Smith ENGNNL00120120925094923
Joanna Smith ENGNNL00120120925094923

A grieving husband has reissued a plea to find the vandals that sabotaged his wife’s car after an inquest in Northampton found her death was caused by unlawful killing.

Newlywed Joanna Smith, 32, was driving to work along the A45 towards near Earls Barton on April 10, 2012, when a punctured tyre caused her Honda Jazz to swerve violently before hitting the slope of a road barrier and careering into a sign.

Joanna Smith died following a car crash on the A45, near Earls Barton. ENGNNL00120120925145024

Joanna Smith died following a car crash on the A45, near Earls Barton. ENGNNL00120120925145024

Police launched a manslaughter probe immediately after her death - as it was believed Mrs Smith’s tyres were cut deliberately beforehand, causing a slow deflation she did not notice until nine miles into her journey.

Speaking after a coroner ruled her death was caused by unlawful killing at a county hall inquest yesterday, husband John Smith said he believes there are people out there who know those responsible.

He said: “It’s the knowing that those responsible remain at large, though the chances of them being caught at this present moment in time feel very slim.

Speaking directly to those that may have evidence he said: “You know who did it - you know who it was.

“Just look at the pain and upset you have caused to people’s lives.

“Joanne was a good person that didn’t deserve this.”

On the evening of April 9, 2012, Mrs Smith’s car was parked outside her and her husband’s apartment at Wilks Walk, Grange Park.

Her Honda was one of two to be targeted by vandals that night. The second, a blue Fiat Punto owned by a neighbour had a driver’s rearside wheel slashed, but in this instance the car owner, Rachael Knight, noticed the flat tyre on reversing out of the car park.

Three other cars in the area had also been targeted the night before.

But Mrs Smith’s tyre was punctured in such a way it would have appeared to be in a normal condition, according to collision investigator PC Cliff Wilkins, of Northamptonshire Police, who spoke at yesterday’s inquest.

“It’s quite possible Joanne was completely unaware of the semi-deflated condition of her tyre,” he said. “It is a lot more difficult to detect if it is a rear tyre.”

At around nine-and-a-half miles into her journey the outer tyre wall ‘disintegrated’ , PC Wilkins added, which he said can cause cars to swerve rapidly ‘side-to-side’ as witnesses to the crash had described.

He concluded: “That loss of control was primarily caused by the deliberate actions of the people that committed that criminal damage.”

“The culpability must rest solely with that person or persons.”

Mrs Smith, originally from Poznan in Poland, managed a Co-operative pharmacy in Irchester and married husband John, a freelance sports reporter, in 2011. She would drive the 15 mile stretch from her home to work every day and was described as a competent driver, the court heard.

In a statement read out at the inquest, Mr Smith paid tribute to his wife.

He said: “She was a very positive and vibrant person - someone you couldn’t help but like.

“Everyone has said since her death how lovely and caring she was and how she will be missed”.

Seven people have been arrested in connection with the investigation, five boys and two girls. All are aged between 13 and 17. No further action is being taken against any of them.

Anyone with information about the incident should call Crimestoppers anonymously on 08000 555 111, or Northamptonshire police on 101.