Lorry man guilty of driver murder
A lorry driver was today convicted of murdering another motorist two months after he behaved like a "predator" in an earlier road rage attack caught on camera.
Mark Slater, 46, drove his 17 tonne truck over the head of grandfather Trevor Allen, 56, whose brain "exploded" after he had stood in front of his killer's vehicle when the pair clashed while driving along the A57 near Warrington in February.
Slater claimed he did not see Mr Allen, from Swinton, Salford, standing in front of his DAF truck and trailer, Chester Crown Court heard.
But the jury were shown "dash-cam" footage of a road-rage attack carried out by Slater in December 2013, who the jury heard was a "coward" but became a "big man" and a "bully" behind the wheel of his truck.
Slater was convicted by the jury following three and a half hour deliberations at the end of a week long trial.
Damning evidence showed the lorry driver from Oldham laughing and jumping up and down after punching and kicking the car of another motorist.
Two months later Slater and Mr Allen became involved in a row while both driving along the A57 on the outskirts of Warrington, around 8am on February 15 this year.
Both drivers had come to a halt on the single carriageway road with Mr Allen out of his van and standing in front of the lorry with his arms outstretched.
It would have been "obvious" to Slater that Mr Allen, a "well nourished" man of 16 stones and wearing a high viz jacket, was in front of him, the court heard.
Forensic examination showed the victim was dragged underneath with his head in the area of the front driver's-side wheel.
A roadside witness shouted at Slater: "You've f****** killed him!"
After running over his victim Slater stopped a short distance up the road and spoke to Simon Feltham, who stopped his own car to dial 999.
Slater claimed Mr Allen had been "throwing things" at his lorry and it, "all started down at the lights," the court heard.
Slater said they were involved in an "over-taking session" and claimed the dead man had thrown coins at the window of his cab.
The taco-graph tracking the lorry's movements before the fatal incident showed Slater pulling emergency brakes and "flooring" the vehicle to its maximum 54mph - exceeding the road's 40mph limit.
After Mr Allen's death, his family, in a tribute said: "Trevor was an amazing, caring dad, granddad, brother, uncle, son and friend to many.
"His smile and charm made the room light up when he walked in. Loved by all who knew him, he is irreplaceable and will be very sadly missed."
The jury heard of two earlier road rage incidents, one caught on camera, involving other motorists and the defendant, before Mr Allen was killed.
One motorist described Slater as like a "raging bull" threatening, "I will f****** kill you!" after an incident on the M62 in January last year, while another, Jordan Ogden, 24, who recorded the incident on his "dash cam" described the defendant as "animal like" and a "predator".
Mr Ogden told the jury an "angry" Slater, "looked like he wanted me dead," during the incident on December 17 last year in Oldham.
The footage showed Slater getting out of his lorry cab on two occasions, running at the Corsa and kicking and punching the vehicle while trying to get the driver's door open.
The court heard the incident began after both vehicles came to a roundabout and Slater, in the wrong lane, tried to cut in, but Mr Ogden did not move his vehicle to let him.
There then followed a prolonged sequence of events lasting 39 minutes, the two vehicles following each other, Mr Ogden telling the jury he wanted to get the driver's details to report the driver to his employers.
Mr Ogden told the jury: "I don't know how someone can react so violently to a situation.
"It would be like an animal hunt. It looked like he wanted me and he wanted me dead."
Ian Unsworth QC, prosecuting, put it to Slater in the witness box: "I'm suggesting what we saw there is you losing it with another road user, you have lost your temper and you have got a very short temper, a short fuse?
"And like the coward that you are, a big man behind the wheel and you become a bully in that lorry and that's precisely what you were doing on that morning on the A57?"
The defendant responded: "No."
Slater told the jury while he accepted he drove over Mr Allen and caused his death, he said he simply did not see the victim standing in front of his vehicle.
Slater made no reaction when he was found guilty. He was remanded into custody and now faces an automatic life sentence.
Many members of Mr Allen's large family burst into tears in the public gallery as the guilty verdict was delivered.
Widower Mr Allen, a father-of-three and grandfather of four was himself one of 13 children originally from the Middleton area of Manchester.
Outside court his eldest sister Muriel Farrell, 62, from Middleton said of her brother's killer: "I hope he rots in hell, I really do. We were all praying today for that murder verdict.
"It has been horrendous listening to it in court. It's been terrible for the family, a lot can't come to court because of it all.
"He was a lovely dad, a lovely brother, never caused any trouble, never been in trouble.
"He was actually a truck driver himself and he taught people himself how to drive HGVs."
Mrs Farrell said her family believed her brother may have spotted Slater using his phone while driving shortly before the incident, which the defendant admitted.
Mr Allen's family believe as a lorry driving instructor he may have indicated to Slater to get off the phone - sparking the fatal confrontation.
In a statement, released after the verdict, Mr Allen's daughter, Sarah Allen said: "After a very distressing and emotional trial justice has finally been done for my dad.
"I am very pleased that such a dangerous man has been convicted and is no longer a danger to other people.
"I wouldn't wish this to happen to another family because it's destroyed ours more than anyone could ever imagine.
Detective Inspector Peter Case, from Cheshire Police, said: "This is a unique case as it is the first time that Cheshire Police - in conjunction with the CPS - have prosecuted a driver for murder in 'road rage′ circumstances such as this. What happened that day was truly shocking and all those involved have been deeply affected − especially those who were at the scene and watched events unfold.
"The injuries sustained by Mr Allen were horrific − whatever had happened between the pair leading up to this incident, nothing justified Slater behaving in the way that he did that day. A vehicle of such a size is a powerful weapon - his actions behind the wheel of the lorry have left a family deeply distraught and struggling to come to terms with what has happened.
"I would like to pay tribute to Mr Allen′s family − they have been in court every day following the case and have had to sit through some very upsetting evidence. They have remained dignified throughout what has been a very difficult process and I hope that the successful conclusion today will give them some comfort and help them to move forward with their lives.
"I would like to acknowledge the three key witnesses who had to re-live what happened during the trial − I know it would not have been an easy task but their evidence was important to the case."
Claire Lindley, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Mersey-Cheshire, said: "Our case was that Mark Slater clearly saw Trevor Allen standing in front of his lorry before driving over him and killing him in a fit of rage. Today, a jury agreed and found him guilty of murder.
"This wanton, fleeting act of violence cruelly and tragically ended Trevor Allen′s life. Mark Slater′s claims that it was accidental and that he didn′t see Mr Allen, wearing a high-visibility vest and standing in front of his lorry, were clearly contradicted by the evidence − and the jury agreed."