Crash driver 'manoeuvred car into position'

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The Independent Online

Claims that Brian Drysdale, the driver who caused the Ufton Nervet rail disaster, was unable to get out of his car because of a mechanical fault, were discounted yesterday by senior police sources.

Claims that Brian Drysdale, the driver who caused the Ufton Nervet rail disaster, was unable to get out of his car because of a mechanical fault, were discounted yesterday by senior police sources.

An officer at the heart of the inquiry said he was at least 80 per cent certain the 48-year-old chef wanted to kill himself.

Mr Drysdale's landlord was reported to have said the driver's door had been jamming since Mr Drysdale bought the car two years ago.

But an investigator said a statement by an off-duty policeman who saw the crash, in which seven people died, told of the car being "manoeuvred into position" so it straddled the track. "The officer said he saw reversing lights flicking on and off and the car shuffling backwards and forwards, which points to a deliberate act," the source said. "We are not closing our minds to the possibility that there was a mechanical failure in the car and we are talking to the garage which repaired it. At the time of the accident, it was dark but the witness saw no sign of him struggling to get out."

The officer said that if the driver's door had been jammed, Mr Drysdale could have tried to get out through another door. He admitted that the inquiry had found no reason to suggest the chef was suicidal, but he "seemed to be positioning himself" so the oncoming Paddington to Plymouth Great Western express would crash into him.

"I am 80 to 20 or 90 to 10 per cent sure that it was suicide," he added. But other officers said it may never be possible to discover whether Mr Drysdale intended to stop in the path of the 100mph Inter-City or whether he broke down at the wrong moment. Friends of the chef, who had worked in the Reading area for more than a decade, said he was a regular user of drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy and was also known to be a heavy drinker.

Friends were also reported to have said he had several girlfriends and never spoke of being gay, although he might have had "one-night stands" with men.

Experts are examining the wreckage of Mr Drysdale's Mazda, but the damage was so extensive it may not be possible to discover if there was a fault.

Investigators say the chef was sober and not under the influence of drugs at the time and that he was "contrary to reports, fully clothed". What had happened was that the impact had forced his body against his seat-belt and most of his clothes were ripped off as his body was thrown outside.

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