The man alleged to have caused the deaths of 10 people in the Selby rail crash admitted he had committed a string of driving offences.
Appearing in the witness box at Leeds Crown Court for the first time, Gary Hart said he was fined £300 for using a stolen road-tax licence and a stolen MoT certificate in 1994. The 37-year-old builder, from Lincolnshire, also admitted three endorsements for speeding.
But he denied claims that he had fallen asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover before the crash in February.
Mr Hart recalled the moments before his Land Rover and trailer left the M62 at the Yorkshire village of Great Heck and plunged down an embankment into the path of a GNER express travelling at 117mph.
"I'm travelling along quite happily," he said. "I had my hand on the steering wheel... There was a noise from behind me somewhere. Not really a loud noise, just a thud.
"The Land Rover violently veered to the left hand side of the road. I made a turning manoeuvre to put the steering wheel back in the normal travelling position."
He said he knew he should not brake for fear of jack-knifing his trailer and that he "could not believe" he had missed the safety barrier by "about 3ft".
He said he then walked to the top of the embankment to wait for the police and was on his own for about 30 minutes.
He told the court he had received hate mail and a death threat, saying one letter was sent via the court's fax machine.
On the sixth day of the trial yesterday, his lawyer, Edmund Lawson QC, said: "The accident was a chain of events that almost incredibly ended in these deaths and that's something [Mr Hart] hasn't and never will come to terms with."
Mr Lawson said that "prurient" details of Mr Hart's conversation with his new girlfriend the night before the crash should be disregarded. "He is not charged with starting an affair or trying to start one over the phone. This is not a court of morals," he said.
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