THE TRAGIC motorway crash which caused the death of a hugely popular Cumbrian police officer was caused by a fire in the engine of his BMW patrol car, an inquest heard.

PC 1724 Nick Dumphreys, who was a police officer for 17 years, died on the afternoon of Sunday, January 26 after his police patrol car crashed on M6 Motorway between Junctions 43 and 44. At the time, he was responding to an emergency call out.

He was 47.

The officer’s inquest was due to get underway yesterday and expected to last three hours.

But before any evidence was called, barrister Sam Harmel, representing the officer’s family, told the coroner that more investigation was needed to assess the cause of an engine fire which a police accident investigation had pinpointed as triggering events leading to the tragedy.

At around 2pm on the afternoon of his death, PC Dumphreys was driving south along the motorway, responding to a call-out, when his car left the road and crashed.

At the time, there were claims circulating that the BMW 330 patrol car was on fire.

That claim appeared to be confirmed yesterday as Mr Harmel told Assistant Coroner Simon Ward that a police accident investigation officer had identified the cause of the crash as a fire, saying that this had “ultimately led to the collision.”

The barrister added: “It may be the fault of problems with the BMW engine; or it may be there was an issue around the maintenance of that vehicle by the constabulary.

“Further evidence is needed to consider both those issues.”

Mr Harmel asked Mr Ward to adjourn the hearing, saying the the inquest needed to be “full, fair, and fearless.”

In October last year, he said, there was a BMW recall of the model of car PC Dumphreys was driving that day.

This was triggered by concerns over a “fire risk,” he said.

The barrister said that PC Dumphreys’ widow Kat had “a very real concern” that there may be an ongoing risk.

“Further evidence is needed from BMW,” said Mr Harmel.

All that was available at present, he said, was a 50-page report from BMW which did not provide the necessary answers.

For those reasons, said the barrister, the coroner needed to have detailed responses from both Cumbria Police and from BMW.

He added that there had been a recall of the particular model of BMW involved in the fatal crash because because of a “fire risk”.

Part of the coroner's role was to consider whether there was sufficient evidence to prevent "further deaths," he said, adding; "There is not sufficient evidence for you to deal with the inquiry today.

Mr Ward agreed to adjourn the hearing, saying he shared Mr Harmel's concern that evidence of what went wrong was absent.

In the light of knowledge that there was a BMW recall of a couple of months before the accident, he felt he needed more evidence about that and he needed to know what action was taken in the light of the BMW recall.

The date of a new hearing is yet to be fixed.

PC Dumphreys’ widow Kat was at the hearing.

The next hearing is likely to be a pre-inquest review, which will examine the issues to be considered at the main inquest hearing.