'A bit of vengeance would not go amiss'

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The Independent Online

Those left bereaved and injured by the terrible events of 5 October 1999 sent out their strongest message yet yesterday that they want the men they consider responsible to be brought before a court.

Survivors, encouraged by news that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is reviewing evidence from Lord Cullen's inquiry, said that corporate manslaughter charges should be brought in relation to the 31 people who died at Ladbroke Grove.

Tony Knox, holding a "Wanted" poster bearing the name and photograph of the former Railtrack chief executive, said: "As far as I am concerned Gerald Corbett is wanted for serial killings on British railways."

Mr Knox, 42, a senior lecturer in paediatric intensive care, was one of the passengers on the Great Western train when it crashed. He said: "Mr Corbett, as chief executive, in my view had overall responsibility and he has got blood on his hands.

"We would like a prosecution. It is not a noble sentiment but personally a little bit of vengeance would not go amiss. When I travel on trains now it makes me sick and it makes me cry because I am so scared."

The bitterness and raw emotion of those who came to collect copies of Lord Cullen's report were evident from the highly charged atmosphere of the press conferences that followed.

An obvious rift emerged between different factions as the Paddington Survivors Group (PSG) separated off from the Ladbroke Grove Solicitors Group after an angry confrontation between some of their members.

The PSG's founder, Pam Warren ­ the plastic mask shielding her badly burned face came to symbolise the full horror of the disaster ­ was accused by some of turning away bereaved relatives from her group and of seeking publicity. As the two factions split up to host separate press conferences, there was a plea for calm from Linda Di Lieto, who lost her 24-year-old son, Sam, in the crash.

She said pointedly: "This petty argument about groups is not going to push forward the issue of train safety in this country."

Defending herself, Ms Warren said: "When we set up the group I was advised by a psychologist not to mix survivors and the bereaved because they had different emotional requirements. It was not a conscious decision to exclude anybody."

While supporting the other group's call for corporate manslaughter prosecutions, she said that survivors had "slightly different needs", stressing that she was more concerned with achieving improved safety on Britain's railways.

"I think comments like that [calling Gerald Corbett a serial killer] are not really very helpful. Nobody on this Earth would have wanted that train crash to happen. As a whole I felt his attitude towards railway safety changed afterwards as was demonstrated by the way he dealt with Hatfield by immediately imposing speed restrictions."

Mr Corbett resigned last November, a few weeks after the fatal crash near Hatfield, Hertfordshire, which was caused by a cracked rail.

Across the board yesterday, the survivors and the bereaved of Ladbroke Grove praised Lord Cullen's "detailed and thorough" report, insisting that they would fight to ensure its recommendations were implemented rather than being left on the shelf.

Louise Christian, of the Ladbroke Grove Solicitors Group, said: "In general we do welcome the report ­ but a note of scepticism we have to add loud and clear is that we wonder whether there will actually be action taken."

Birgit Andersen, an American whose 32-year-old daughter, Charlotte, died in the crash, said: "It was not an accident. It could have been prevented. Mismanagement in the rail industry led to negligence when people were carrying out their duties because there was no quality control anywhere."

Pete Macauly and his wife, Diana, have yet to receive any compensation for the death of their son, Matthew, 26. "What we want now," Mr Macauly added, " is for the railway companies, and Railtrack in particular, first of all to get rid of all the dross and all the useless managers that were around and caused this tragedy, and to get on and start implementing the findings."

Patrick Moylan, a management consultant from Ciren-cester who survived the crash, said: "The industry has not got a great track record for implementing recommendations going back as far as Clapham. There is a lack of urgency on behalf of Railtrack and we are going to stick with it until the recommendations are carried out. Otherwise this would have been for nothing."

RAF Wing Commander Richard Castle, 43, suffered extensive burns in the crash. He said: "Fifty-six red lights have been jumped in the last month. That could have been 56 Ladbroke Groves."

Pam Warren added ominously: "Every single morning we expect to hear about another crash because nothing has changed and it needs to change quickly."

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