Grandmother of 15yo killed after pursuit calls for change in the way police chase

Every day at work, Sandra Carroll looks at a picture of her grandson Ihaia McPhee-Maxwell.

The 15-year-old's death in a police chase has caused her the most extreme grief because she was the one who called the police on him.

"I love my grandson, and I miss my grandson - and I wish things could have been different," she told Newshub.

She had seen a suspicious blue Subaru outside the Highbury Whanau Centre in Palmerston North, where she helps look after troubled kids. The driver took some young girls under their care away.

"I waited for the car to turn around so I could get the registration plate - and as it drove out past me I realised it was my grandson Ihaia," she said.

She then gave police a full rundown.

"I said to them, 'it's my grandson Ihaia Maxwell-McPhee'," she told Newshub.

Police soon found him, and gave chase.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) review saying they did so, despite knowing he:

  • was 15 years old, with no driver licence
  • was a suspected driver of stolen car with girls in it
  • had been regularly stealing cars
  • was involved in several police chases
  • had removed an electronic bracelet - and was on the run.

"As soon as he sped up to take off from the police, that was enough to say, 'I won't chase this 15 year old boy with a car load of girls because it is not going to end well,'" Carroll said. "That's the only way I can say it.

"It's a recipe for tragedy, really to chase a car full of teenagers."

Ihaia crashed off the road outside Palmerston North in May last year, killing his passenger - 12-year-old Meadow James, and seriously injuring a 16-year-old girl.

Carroll realised afterwards her grandson had messaged her at the same time she called police.

"I also private messaged him 'I love you'," she told Newshub.

"And then when the blue car at the library was here he messaged me back 'LYT' which is 'love you too'."

The IPCA review found the stolen Subaru reached speeds of between 180km/h and 200km/h and police went 177km/h - on one of Palmerston North's main roads.

"The risks of a pursuit in this instance far outweighed the need to urgently apprehend [Ihaia McPhee-Maxwell] and recover stolen property," the IPCA ruled.

"Officer A should have realised that it was unlikely that the driver would stop safely, and the risks of the pursuit were unjustified.

"Officer A should have abandoned the pursuit."

Carroll is a grandmother calling on police to change the way they chase.

"There's got to be a better way to do it."


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