A witness in the trial of a man accused of killing his wife in a deliberate car crash broke down today as she told a court she blamed herself for the death "for years".
Claire Morris, 32, died when the vehicle she was a passenger in crashed and caught fire in Aberdeenshire in 1994. Her husband, Malcolm Webster, is on trial at the High Court in Glasgow, accused of murdering her by drugging her, driving the car off the road and starting the blaze.
The 51-year-old, from Guildford in Surrey, denies murdering his wife in a bid to gain thousands of pounds in insurance payouts.
Elizabeth Smith wept as she told of the "horrific" moment she saw Ms Morris "consumed" by the flames. Ms Smith, 53, was driving along the unclassified Auchenhuive to Tarves road to pick up her boyfriend when she noticed a car by the side of road with its headlights on.
She said she thought it was someone "lamping for foxes" and decided not to stop because it was dark and she was frightened. She said she did not see anyone near the car.
However, on the return journey, the couple spotted a man lying on the ground with a woman kneeling over him and they pulled over. She told the jury Webster told her someone else was in the car and she approached the vehicle, which she described as a Jeep.
She said she saw Ms Morris lying unconscious on the reclined passenger seat, but the car burst into flames before she was able to get her out.
Ms Smith's voice cracked, and she wiped tears from her eyes as she said: "I can remember bits of it like it was yesterday. It was horrific - when I saw the Jeep in flames and the woman lying in the seat..."
Advocate Depute Derek Ogg QC told her: "Please don't blame yourself."
She responded: "But I did, for years. I thought if I had stopped the first time, I would have been able to pull her out."
The prosecutor replied: "Please don't blame yourself for things you could never have suspected at the time."
Ms Smith described how an apparently semi-conscious Webster had told her his wife was in the car with him.
She said: "I just remember me saying 'Was there anyone with you?' He didn't answer. He closed his eyes. I asked him again if there was anyone with him because he had opened his eyes again.
"I remember asking him again. I remember him saying his wife. I shouted that his wife was with him and, just as I was shouting that, the Jeep blew up."
Mr Ogg asked her: "Did you see her being consumed by the fire?" Ms Smith nodded and answered: "Yes."
He asked her: "Was there any moving or shouting?" She replied: "No."
He went on: "Was there any sign of life at all?"
Ms Smith's voice cracked again and she cried as she replied: "No."
In a statement given to police in May 1994, Ms Smith also said she saw smoke pouring from the bonnet of the car, before it burst into flames. Webster is also accused of trying to kill his second wife, Felicity Drumm, in New Zealand to pocket more than £750,000 in separate insurance policies.
And he faces a further charge of attempting to bigamously marry Simone Banarjee and inducing her to make a will leaving everything to him, as well as lying about having leukaemia. He denies all the charges against him.
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