Parents of man who caused the disaster baffled by 'suicide'

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The elderly parents of the man who caused the Berkshire rail crash were said last night to be baffled and heartbroken by their son's role in the disaster.

The elderly parents of the man who caused the Berkshire rail crash were said last night to be baffled and heartbroken by their son's role in the disaster.

The couple said that they could not believe that the high-speed train had been derailed in a deliberate act by Bryan Drysdale. Police continued yesterday to investigate his life for clues to the crash.

Henrietta, known as Etta, and Keith Drysdale told friends that their son seemed fine when they saw him a couple of weeks ago and that they were "absolutely heartbroken" by the crash at Ufton Nervet in Berkshire that killed their son and six others on Saturday.

"They can't believe what's happened and they are just in shock," said Dayline Vickers, a family friend who described the pair as a "golden couple" who are both in their 70s and have another son, Ronnie, and a daughter, Carol. Mrs Vickers said after visiting the couple that they had told her there was "no way that Brian would do that if he thought it would kill all those people".

Detectives said that they were checking Mr Drysdale's past but refused to comment on reports that he was gay and had had an argument with his partner shortly before the crash. They also declined to comment on reports that he was sitting naked in his Mazda 323 on the track. Mr Drysdale, 48, who lived in the Cemetery Junction area of east Reading, had had numerous jobs in and around the town as a chef.

Adam Terry, a sous chef who worked with Mr Drysdale at the Hanover International Hotel seven years ago and more recently with him at the nearby Wokefield Park conference centre described him as irascible. "He was strange and was always having arguments with staff," he said.

Mr Terry, who worked in a separate kitchen at Wokefield, added: "He would always come over here and start an argument. He didn't seem all there. He would get on the telephone and harangue other people."

However, detectives who interviewed other colleagues said that there had been nothing untoward about his behaviour at work in the kitchen on the day of the crash.

"We believe that this is his normal route to and from his place of work and that's where we are working closely with Thames Valley Police to try and ascertain the lifestyle and movements of Mr Drysdale prior to the incident taking place," said Superintendent Andy Ball of British Transport Police.

Suicide remains the main focus of the inquiry although police have not ruled out mechanical failure and are checking the car. The key to the inquiry continues to be records of a final call made from Mr Drysdale's mobile phone, which was found at the scene.

More details emerged yesterday of the six other victims - Leslie Matthews, 72, Emily Webster, 14, Barry Strevens, 55, Stanley Martin, 54, Anganette Rossi, 38, and her daughter Louella Main, nine.

Mr Matthews had been on his way home from watching his team Reading beat Stoke. He was to join a family firework party with his wife, Jean, and the families of their two children, including his four grandchildren. When he died on Sunday afternoon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, his wife and children were with him.

The wife of Mr Strevens, from Wells in Somerset, described him as a "wonderfully kind, generous and gentle man".

Jacqueline Strevens, the mother of the couple's two young sons, Ollie, two, and Toby, five months, said: "His sparkling personality radiated warmth and love and made a positive impact on everyone he came into contact with. It has been a wonderful privilege to know him."

Mr Strevens, a management consultant, also had two grown-up daughters from a previous relationship.

Peter and Anna Webster, the parents of Emily, travelled to Berkshire from their family home in the hamlet of Doccombe near Moretonhampstead on Dartmoor, Devon.

Deborah Martin, the wife of the train driver, Stanley Martin, from Torquay, Devon, described her husband as a "one in a million".

She said: "Stan was a dedicated family man, who loved his family as they loved him. He will be irreplaceable as a husband and a father.''

She added: "I could never imagine anything as devastating as this happening. Stan was an exceptional man who I shall never forget.

"His patience, love and understanding can never be replaced. He was one in a million and will always be in my heart."