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Glasgow bin lorry tragedy driver 'unreservedly apologises'

Published 03/11/2015

The scene of the bin lorry crash
The scene of the bin lorry crash

The driver of the bin lorry that crashed, killing six people in Glasgow just days before Christmas, has told a documentary that he "unreservedly" apologises for his role in the tragedy.

Harry Clarke was driving the council refuse truck when it veered out of control in the city centre on December 22 last year.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry, which adjourned in August, heard he lost consciousness at the wheel and that he had a history of health issues - including a previous blackout in 2010 when at the wheel of a stationary bus - but had not disclosed his medical background to his employers or the DVLA.

When he came to Glasgow Sheriff Court to give evidence to the inquiry, Mr Clarke was warned by Sheriff John Beckett he did not have to answer questions which could incriminate him as the families of some of the victims had signalled their intention to raise a private prosecution against him.

Over two days he refused to answer the majority of questions from lawyers but in a letter to a BBC Scotland documentary, titled Lies, Laws and the Bin Lorry Tragedy, Mr Clarke has offered an apology.

The letter to the BBC read: "I understand that the impact of this event on me is irrelevant when compared to the loss that the families of the victims have suffered.

"I wish to unreservedly apologise for my role in this tragic event.

"I am aware that the families of the victims of the incident will have many unanswered questions. I will try to answer all of those questions to the best of my ability at the point I am able to do so."

During the FAI, Ronald Conway, acting for the family of victim Stephenie Tait, told Mr Clarke: "I'm going to ask that you say sorry to the people that died that day.

"I want you to say sorry for the lies told in 2010 and that those lies led to the deaths of six people."

Mr Clarke said "no, I can't say that," after which the lawyer told him: "You'll never get another chance."

The daughters of Gillian Ewing, one of the six victims of the crash, described listening to Mr Clarke's evidence to the FAI as "one of the most harrowing days of their lives".

Lucy Ewing told the BBC Scotland documentary : "On the run-up to the day, me especially, I was very unsure as to whether I was going to go. I didn't really want to be in the same room as him but then I also wanted to hear what he had to say."

Robyn Ewing added: "It was one of the most harrowing days of our lives.

"I mean having to sit there and listen to him continually say 'I don't wish to answer that, I don't wish to answer that, I don't wish to answer that'... and then every time he did go to answer something, his solicitor would stand up and say, 'don't answer that'."

Jacqueline Morton's son, Adam Russell, said: " It was heartbreaking for everybody that was involved, all the families that were there.

"It was a really hard day for us all."

Marie Weatherall, who was injured by the bin lorry, laughed mockingly as she told the BBC Scotland programme: "It was extraordinary to hear him not say anything and then he gave his side of the story, and it was just like he was a victim as well, really."

Mr Clarke resigned from his job at the city council last week, hours before being due to attend a disciplinary meeting.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died from multiple injuries after being hit by the truck.

Ms Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Ms Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed as the lorry travelled out of control along Queen Street and towards George Square before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel.

Sheriff Beckett, who heard the FAI, said he would endeavour to issue his determination by January at the latest.

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