Runaway driver cleared of faking
Tuesday 15 June 1999
Michael Rayner, 27, was initially hailed a hero in May last year when he successfully negotiated packed lanes on the M1 after the accelerator on his 14-wheel tipper truck jammed.
Millions of television viewers watched as Mr Rayner eventually ran his out-of-control vehicle into crash barriers while a rolling police escort cleared the motorway of traffic.
But instead of being feted for his bravery, Mr Rayner found himself in police custody after it was alleged that he had faked the emergency to draw attention to himself.
Suspicions had been aroused during the incident when Mr Rayner repeatedly refused to accept traffic officers' advice on how to bring his 38-tonne Scania wagon to a halt. Flanked by seven police cars, Mr Rayner, according to Crispin Aylett, counsel for the prosecution, "enjoyed the unfolding drama".
Checks later revealed that Mr Rayner's claims that all three braking systems had failed were bogus and that the vehicle's speed-limiter, designed to restrict its speed to 56mph, had been manually overridden.
Background checks alsoshowed that far from being the mild-mannered hero, Mr Rayner was in fact a convicted baby-batterer who, six years earlier, had been diagnosed with the attention seeking disorder Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
Mr Rayner had also been involved in another incident on the M1 in 1991, when he was sentenced to a year in a young offenders' institution, for shooting at the wheels of a car during a "road rage" incident.
But yesterday a jury at Harrow Crown Court rejected the prosecution's claims that Mr Rayner was a "thrill- seeker" and found him not guilty of dangerous driving during the incident last year.
Earlier, Mr Rayner, of Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, told the court how he had suspected a fault in the truck when it began over-revving before he joined the M1 at junction 13.
As he joined the motorway, he said, the lorry's accelerator jammed and he was forced to take evasive action. He was left to weave a path through slower traffic while using a mobile phone to contact the police. Within minutes patrol cars were providing a rolling escort and trying to warn away other motorists.
One police officer suggested that he turn off the engine but Mr Rayner feared this would activate the steering lock, causing the lorry to overturn.
Eventually Mr Rayner chose to crash into the barriers on the hard shoulder, but his actions prompted accusations from the Crown that he had deliberately prolonged the drama because he was enjoying the excitement. Mr Rayner told the court he had been genuinely concerned that the police suggestions would lead him to kill himself and possibly others.
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