Farmer 'still angry' over police response after reporting fatal crash

John Wilson, 53, from Stirling, gave evidence at the FAI into the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill in July 2015.

Farmer’s anger over police response to M9 crash which led to Lamara Bell and John Yuill’s deaths Police Scotland

A farmer still feels angry about the delayed response from police after he reported a crash which led to the deaths of two people, an inquiry has heard.

John Wilson, 53, from Stirling, gave evidence on Wednesday to the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the deaths of Lamara Bell, 25 and John Yuill, 28, in July 2015.

Ms Bell and Mr Yuill were driving back from a camping trip early on July 5 that year when their car crashed on the M9, at the eastbound junction with the M80.

Mr Wilson told Falkirk Sheriff Court he was driving on Pirnhall Road in Stirling at around 10am that day with his father in the passenger seat.

He told the inquiry that his father, who was not named in court, saw the couple’s blue Renault Clio down an embankment.

Mr Wilson said he reported the sighting to Police Scotland on 101 at around 11.28am that morning, after discussing it with his family when they got home.

The inquiry heard a recording of his call as well as a transcript of Mr Wilson’s conversation with Sergeant Brian Henry, who answered his 101 call.

Mr Wilson gave Sgt Henry the details and said the officer told him he would look on the police system, and “get it checked out” if the incident had not already been reported.

Earlier this week, the inquiry heard Sgt Henry made inquiries about the incident but failed to log the call.

Mr Wilson was asked by advocate depute Gavin Anderson KC if he had expected the police to do anything.

He replied that he would have expected police to check it out and that he was “doing his duty” as a member of the public by reporting it.

Mr Wilson said he was driving in the same area the following day, Monday July 6, at around 9.30am.

Mr Anderson asked him if he paid “close attention” to that part of the road and Mr Wilson confirmed he did.

He told the inquiry he noticed there was damage to trees at the location the crash took place, new tree bark and tyre skid marks.

He did not do anything further at this time.

He said he drove past the crash site again on the morning of Tuesday July 7 and noted there was still no change.

On Wednesday July 8, Mr Wilson said he was told by his wife in a phone call that she had heard a helicopter landing on the field behind her office, which was close to the crash site.

Mr Wilson then travelled to the site, which he told the inquiry was around a quarter-of-a-mile from his farm.

He said he returned home and made another call to the police on 101 to inform them he had reported the car on Sunday morning.

Mr Anderson asked Mr Wilson why he phoned the police again.

Mr Wilson said: “Internal anger was starting to boil up in me.

“An air ambulance was pulling out a stretcher. I thought: ‘This is not a recovery job, it’s a rescue job’.

“There is someone in that vehicle.

“My blood pressure was rising and the anger was starting to take over.

“I had to get out of there.”

Later, he was asked by the solicitor representing the family of Ms Bell, Andrew Thomson KC: “Do you still have that anger?”

Mr Wilson responded: “Yes.

“I felt let down. It angers me that nothing had been done.”

The inquiry also heard recordings of two other calls Mr Wilson made to Police Scotland on July 8, in which he spoke to a call operator named Andy.

During the call, Mr Wilson said he speculated on a missing persons appeal he had seen on the news on Monday morning and told the police it could be them, but that he was just guessing.

The call operator assured Mr Wilson while on the phone he would find out about the incident.

In the recording, he told Mr Wilson: “I will let the powers that be know about this.

“If I can find out quickly, I will call you right back.”

Mr Wilson told the inquiry he did not receive a call back about the incident and had to call police himself to find out the outcome of the crash.

He was told by a 101 call handler that information could not be given on the phone for various reasons, but if the incident “warranted it” a press release would be issued.

Mr Wilson was later visited by police officers who he gave statements to about the incident.

Later on Wednesday, the inquiry heard from Superintendent Mandy Paterson, who was the chief inspector of the Falkirk division of Police Scotland at the time.

The inquiry heard helicopter searches of the area identified by police covered an area of around 700 square miles but stopped at the Keir Roundabout in Dunblane, around a ten-minute drive on the M9 from the crash site.

Mr Anderson asked Ms Paterson if “with the benefit of hindsight” she would have done anything differently.

She said: “I am always going to say yes on a human level and that we would have found the missing people quicker.

“But on balance, this was a really difficult, complex and huge geographical area.

“It is difficult to say what I would have done differently.”

The inquiry, before Sheriff James Williamson, continues.

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