The real story behind the 'drunk director' asleep on the track

The headlines portrayed him as a joke. The truth is not so funny

The story of the company director who fell drunkenly asleep on a railway line seemed at first glance to be utterly hilarious, especially in the midst of office party season. To the tales of what old George in accounts did after sinking nine whiskies could be added that of Kevin Craswell.

And so, the coverage beside the now-famous picture of a besuited figure slumped across the rails reached no further than the handiest stereotype. "Boss falls asleep on railway after vodka binge at rush hour" read one headline; others went for a pun: "Court fines railway sleeper".

But far from being a "boss" on a Christmas bender, Kevin Craswell was a 48-year-old unemployed man, reduced to living with his elderly parents on £80 a week benefits, who in his despair last March, drank himself into a potentially fatal stupor.

Until five years ago, he was a successful company director with a wife and child. As Graham Brooker, managing director of Wilson Electric, a company in which the Craswell family is still involved, said: "This was a very nice, very kind and intelligent person who just took the wrong road. It is one of those sad tragedies."

That road was drink. In court last month -- he was charged with lying on a railway track - one of his solicitors, Philip Longes, said: "He's lost his family, his home, his job and his self-esteem. He has sunk to the bottom."

The scale of his problem with alcohol can be measured in the wretched state he was in last March. He had consumed so much vodka that by 3pm he had clambered on to the track near Epsom in Surrey. Was he so drunk that he didn't know where he was or the danger he was in? Or was he about to do what 201 people did last year and commit suicide under a train? We shall never know, for Mr Craswell has no memory of that afternoon.

Travellers waiting at the station saw him come into view, crawling along the track. He then passed out, with his feet a mere 12 inches from the live rail. Nothing, initially, could wake him. Not the shouts from the platform, a train passing within feet of him, or the clatter of a police helicopter hovering above as it monitored the incident and took the now famous pictures of a comatose Mr Craswell, a movement away from 750 volts.

The current was turned off, trains held up for 20 minutes, and rescuers tried torouse him. When they succeeded, Mr Craswell was found to have drunk so much that he was taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia. Once sober, he could recall nothing.

But, say his lawyers, the experience had shocked him into action. Graham Guerin told Redhill magistrates: "He has taken steps to help himself including referring himself to Respond [a drugs and alcohol rehabilitation centre] on a day programme and to see a counsellor." His lawyer described him as a "recovering" alcoholic, a description that speaks of hope for a man who has been through a personal hell. Neighbours in the smart tree-lined road in Ashtead where Mr Craswell lives said that he had now begun to turn his life around.

Richard Kramer, director of policy at the social care charity Turning Point said: "There are three million people dependent on alcohol in the UK, and yet there is a real shortage of treatment services, and, unlike illegal drugs, alcohol abuse is an issue that cuts across all social classes."

"Somebody with a mental health problem may self-medicate with alcohol. But alcohol problems may in turn lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems."

Additional reporting by Lauren Veevers

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test