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10 April 2013, 12:40
Police investigating the death of a woman, killed in a crash in Northamptonshire caused by damage to one of her tyres, have made a new appeal for information.
A year on, Northamptonshire Police have told Heart they believe there are people with information about the crash on Tuesday 10 April 2012 that killed Joanna Smith, 32 (pictured).
The crash happened on the A45 at Earls Barton as Joanna drove to work from her home on Grange Park, Northampton.
During forensic examination of the car, it was established that the crash happened because one of Joanna's tyres had been deliberately damaged before she set out on her journey.
It appears Joanna started out that morning unaware that her rear passenger-side tyre was damaged. On her usual journey to work it failed catastrophically.
The investigation identified that three other vehicles parked around William's Way, close to Joanna's home address, had also suffered damage to their tyres the night before her crash, but their drivers noticed the damage before using the vehicles.
Police believe Joanna was not specifically targeted and the tyre may have only been partially deflated when she started her journey. As a result of the criminal damage to Joanna's car, a manslaughter investigation was launched.
DCI Martin Kinchin, from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) Major Crime team, said: “The tyres from Joanna’s car were then sent to scientists who are specialists in the examination of tyres. They concluded that one of the tyres had been deliberately punctured, which ultimately resulted in Joanna's death. We do not believe Joanna was specifically targeted, but was the tragic victim of senseless vandalism and somebody knows who was responsible for that damage."
DCI Kinchin highlighted that the investigation team had received good support from the public, and a number of people had been arrested or questioned in respect of the offence.
"Whilst a number of people have been arrested or interviewed on suspicion of the offence, at this time it still remains undetected. Joanna's family, both in the UK and in her native Poland, have been devastated by her death. I believe there are still people who know who is responsible for this damage who have not come forward and so the investigation continues.”
Detectives, working with local officers, have also investigated a second spate of overnight car tyre damages that occurred on the night of 30 July 2012, in the nearby village of Roade.
DCI Kinchin added: "Overnight on 30 July 2012, a number of car tyres were also damaged in Roade.
“The nature of the damage, the proximity of Roade to Grange Park as well as the fact that this type of incident is extremely rare in Northamptonshire, means we have investigated both incidents with the possibility that they could be linked. Fortunately, on this second occasion the damage did not result in anybody losing their life.
“We would still like to speak to anyone who may have any information regarding the deliberate damage of tyres in the Grange Park area over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in April last year, or in Roade on 30 July."
Officers believe the person who damaged Joanna’s car may not have realised the full implications of what they were doing.
DCI Kinchin said: "Although we do not believe the person who damaged Joanna’s car set out to cause her death, their actions had a very serious outcome and her family deserve to know what happened.
“Anyone committing this kind of crime needs to stop and think about the potential consequences of their actions. Joanna’s death shows that people can and do die from this kind of criminal damage.
“We believe someone knows who the offender is and would ask them to think about the impact Joanna’s death has had on her family and friends, and to give us any information they may have - either by calling 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”