'Suicidal' chef drove to track after work

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The Independent Online

A chef aged 48 was revealed last night as the man who apparently committed suicide and caused the Berkshire rail disaster in which six other people died.

A chef aged 48 was revealed last night as the man who apparently committed suicide and caused the Berkshire rail disaster in which six other people died.

Bryan Drysdale, who was unmarried with no children, was named as the motorist who appeared deliberately to park his car in front of a First Great Western express on Saturday night. As police continued their investigation into his background for clues to the disaster, a picture began to emerge of a loner who had held a number of manual jobs in recent years.

Mr Drysdale drove straight from his shift at a local country club to the railway line, where less than 35 minutes later he was killed by the train.

He had been working in the kitchens at the Wokefield Park Conference Centre in Mortimer, Reading, on the day of the crash. When his shift finished at 5.30pm ­ about the time the train was leaving Paddington ­ he drove less than a mile to the level crossing in Ufton Nervet, where he parked his Mazda 323 car across the tracks.

About 45 minutes later, the Paddington to Plymouth service smashed into his vehicle.

A spokesman for the Wokefield Park Conference Centre, at Wokefield Park Golf and Country Club, said last night: "We confirm that Brian Drysdale was a valued member of our catering team for the past 15 months and we are shocked by the news of his involvement in this terrible tragedy."

He had previously been working as a labourer in the Padworth and Mortimer area of Berkshire, near Ufton Nervet.

Mr Drysdale lived in a two-storey Victorian house in a rundown suburb of east Reading. He was believed to have moved to the house, in Radstock Road, a few weeks ago.

Police sources said Mr Drysdale had family in the West Midlands but had lived and worked in the Reading area for some time. Officers have spoken to members of the family who said they were not aware that he was suffering from any form of depression.

Investigators have been examining a mobile phone found near the crash scene thought to belong to the dead man. Inquiries are likely to focus on calls he may have made shortly before the collision.

Investigators believe that as he sat in his Mazda 323 on the tracks at the level crossing he may have been "manoeuvring'' the vehicle so that it had maximum impact with the oncoming train. One theory suggests that the car may have originally been parked on the track carrying trains in the London direction.

One neighbour said he knew Mr Drysdale lived at number 79 in a red-brick terrace house believed to be shared by the landlord and another man of South African origin. The neighbour, who would not named, said: "He was certainly a bit strange. I met him only a couple of times and it took him a long time for him to start saying hello to me." Two men who went into the house last night declined to comment.

As engineers and accident investigators worked at the site of the devastation yesterday, details emerged of how a Royal Marine had crawled through broken glass to save the lives of victims of the disaster.

Warrant Officer Tom McPhee, 34, helped to keep a seriously injured casualty, Sharmin Bacchus, alive and conscious for 30 minutes in the spot where she was trapped until paramedics were able to reach her. WO McPhee, who has two children, is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and was on his way back to his home in Exmouth, Devon, after watching his favourite football team, Chelsea, beat Everton. He was queuing for a can of beer in the buffet car when the crash happened.

He was with his friend Brian Kelmsly, aged 35, who helped him save Sharmin, 37, and rescue another six or seven injured passengers.

WO McPhee, who is a company sergeant major with 42 Commando at Bickleigh Barracks in Plymouth, suffered a bruised back and whiplash. He said: "After the crash, everything went black and there was diesel fuel spilling everywhere. I was not a hero. I just felt it was important to help other people.

"Subconsciously I am sure my military training helped because we were able to organise ourselves."

* A freight train has derailed in a depot and collided with a number of parked vehicles, rail company EWS said today. The accident happened sometime after midnight in Eastleigh, Hampshire, as the train, made up of 15 wagons and carrying aggregate, was being shunted, said an EWS spokesman.

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