A crash which claimed the life of a 32-year-old woman was caused by vandalism to one of the tyres on her car, police have said.
Detectives are now treating the death of pharmacist Joanna Smith as manslaughter after forensic tests showed a tyre on her Honda Jazz had been punctured deliberately.
Mrs Smith, from Northampton, who had been married to husband John Smith for under a year, is thought to have been unaware of the vandalism when she set off for work in Irchester on the morning of April 10. The victim, originally from Poznan in Poland, was pronounced dead on the eastbound A45 near Earls Barton after the damaged tyre caused her to crash while travelling at between 60mph and 70mph.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Kinchin, from the East Midlands special operations unit major crime team, said: 'While investigating the incident that led to Joanna’s death, our collision investigation team established that it was likely that tyre failure caused a loss of control of the car.
'The tyres from Joanna’s car were then sent to scientists who are specialists in the examination of tyres, who concluded that one of them had been deliberately punctured.
Mr Kinchin added: 'After being informed by the scientists that Joanna’s tyre had been deliberately damaged, coupled with the other three incidents in the area where Joanna lived, we contacted the Crown Prosecution Service for advice about how the case should proceed.
'Following their feedback we are now investigating the collision as manslaughter.
'We believe that someone deliberately damaged the tyre on Joanna’s car which ultimately resulted in her death.
'We do not believe Joanna was specifically targeted but was the tragic victim of senseless vandalism.'
Mr Kinchin continued: '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.
'Anyone committing this kind of crime needs to stop and think about the potential consequences of their actions.
'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 ask them to give us any information they may have.'