An arrest warrant has been issued for an Italian man accused of causing the deaths of five people, including his young son, in a road crash in Moray.
Alfredo Ciociola, 49, who lives in Sicily, denies causing the five deaths and serious injury by driving dangerously on the A96 near Keith in July 2018.
His case was set for a trial diet at the High Court in Aberdeen this week.
But today a judge granted a warrant for his arrest after he failed to appear.
It is alleged Ciociola, 49, crashed a minibus into a car after falling asleep at the wheel while on holiday in Scotland.
His son, four-year-old Lorenzo Ciociola and Frances Saliba Patane 63, who were both passengers in the minibus, died.
Edward Reid, 63, of Macduff, Audrey Appleby, 70, and Evalyn Elrick, 69, both of Aberchirder, who were travelling in the other car, also died.
The High Court in Aberdeen heard that Ciociola, who is on bail, was due to appear in court this week.
Defence Counsel Ian Duguid QC said Ciociola had been in touch via email to ask if the matter could be postponed.
“He was on a vacation in Scotland with his wife and two children, and one of his best friends, and his best friend’s wife, and their two children,” he said.
“Two of the deceased are his best friend’s wife and his own son, Lorenzo.”
Duguid said Ciociola’s wife had been seriously injured in the crash.
He said she has had to self isolate, and is unvaccinated due to her health conditions, as a direct result of the accident.
This, the court heard, meant she was unable to look after their young children – one of whom is due to start school.
“His wife is confined and cannot take him to school, and he has requested that some consideration is given to his own circumstances,” Duguid said.
“He has general concerns for the well being of his children and for his wife…if he was not able to return.”
He added that Ciociola fully understood the concerns of the other families involved in the case.
“He specifically said ‘I am sorry’, I understand the other families involved – their pain is also mine.”
Duguid said Ciociola’s most immediate concern was one of his children starting school, and his wife being unable to attend this.
He added: “Certainly he intends to face the consequences of his actions and his driving.”
Advocate Depute Derick Nelson said the Crown’s position was to move for an arrest warrant to be granted.
“It is difficult not to have sympathy with Mr Ciociola’s position of course, and everything indicates how difficult it must be,” he said.
“Having said that, other people are still faced with difficult decisions and still attend court…the only way we can ensure that he does come is to have a warrant granted.”
Judge Lady Haldane said “The tragic circumstances of this case all round are not lost on me.
“It is very easy to understand on a human level why Mr Ciociola feels the way he does.”
She said that despite this there was no guarantees that continuing the case for three months would ensure his attendance at court, and granted an arrest warrant.