M9 crash driver was ‘dangerous’ and to blame for the accident, inquiry hears
The Fatal Accident Inquiry into the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell is taking place at Falkirk Sheriff Court.
A police report into a crash which killed a couple off the M9 described the driver as “dangerous” and put the blame solely on his actions, a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) heard.
John Yuill, 28, and Lamara Bell, 25, were discovered on July 8 2015, after their Renault Clio crashed down a steep embankment off the M9 near Stirling.
They were reported missing three days earlier, on July 5 2015, when they failed to return from a camping trip with friends.
Mr Yuill died at the scena and but Ms Bell suffered injuries and died later in hospital, having lain in the crashed car for three days.
Workers in Esso services at Broxden, near Perth, noted Mr Yuill was “acting erratically”, shortly before the crash, according to a police report which was examined at Falkirk Sheriff Court.
The FAI heard Mr Yuill had been caught on a speeding camera on the A9 before entering the services and had hit a parking kerb at 6mph without braking, before leaving at 5.45am.
The travel time between the services and crash site would ordinarily take 30 minutes, but investigators believe Mr Yuill was speeding “excessively”, missed a turning to Falkirk, and steered “aggressively”, losing control of the car, which spun 180 degrees.
The car hit the hard shoulder, and plunged four metres down an embankment, destroying several trees, and was estimated to have happened just before 6am.
Mr Yuill obtained a provisional driving licence a few weeks before the crash, and had previously been disqualified from driving, according to the report from Police Scotland.
Retired collision investigator Richard McEwan, who worked for Police Scotland’s road policing unit, watched CCTV footage from Broxden services at the hearing and identified three occasions when Mr Yuill appeared to “staggering as if intoxicated”.
The police report deemed the cause of the crash was “either one or a combination of excess speed, harsh steering, inexperience and intoxication”.
Mr McEwan said: “I’ve never come across a situation where a car has knocked a tree down, like this.”
He said defects, including a tyre which was below the legal tread depth, would not have contributed to the crash, which happened on a dry day with good visibility.
A witness who worked in the service station told police “his attention was drawn to him (Mr Yuill) as his behaviour was slightly erratic”, and the report stated he had been drinking and smoking cannabis during the camping trip.
The report said: “The collision was instigated by now deceased Yuill ‘a provisional driving licence holder and inexperienced driver’. The toxicology report will show whether he has driven this vehicle in an apparently intoxicated condition, having consumed alcohol and smoked cannabis as per witness testimony.
“His actions pre-collision can be described as careless or even dangerous. He was detected driving at excessive speed travelling north on the A9 and his apparent lack of awareness at Broxden resulted in his vehicle colliding with a kerb.
“Damage was found on both front wheels consistent with kerb strikes.
“Investigators are of the opinion that the now deceased’s driving manner was responsible for this collision.
“The car has been travelling southeast on M9 and from the position of sideways tyre scuffmarks in relation to area of chevrons, it would appear now deceased has been late in reacting to the diverge which would take him towards Falkirk where both deceased resided.”
Brian McConnachie KC, representing the Yuill family, disputed the description of Mr Yuill as “inexperienced”, despite acknowledging he never passed a driving test.
But Mr McEwan, who worked for Police Scotland for 25 years, said the damage was unlike anything he had seen in his career and insisted Mr Yuill should not have been on the motorway.
Mr Williamson said: “It could be possible for Mr Yuill to have been driving for a number of years.
“The idea he is an inexperienced driver comes from the fact he doesn’t have a full driving licence.”
Mr McEwan said: “I still stand by my opinion (the car) was travelling at more than 70mph, to see the damage it did.
“Back in 2015 learner drivers couldn’t drive on the motorway, it wasn’t allowed.”
The FAI comes after the family of Ms Bell was awarded more than £1 million in damages from Police Scotland in a civil settlement in December 2021.
Three months previously, the force was fined £100,000 at the High Court in Edinburgh after it pleaded guilty to health and safety failings which “materially contributed” to Ms Bell’s death.
Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone apologised to the families following the court case.
The inquiry continues.