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Croydon tram crash driver tells court he is ‘deeply sorry’ and ‘in some ways I held myself responsible’ | UK News

The driver in the Croydon tram disaster has described to jurors the moment he “collapsed” when he was told passengers had died.

Alfred Dorris also told the Old Bailey “in some ways” he held himself “responsible” for the crash which killed seven passengers.

He was allegedly driving the tram at three times the speed he was supposed to be doing before it derailed on a sharp curve at Sandilands in south London.

As well as the seven deaths, 19 people were seriously injured.

The 49-year-old is on trial for failing to take “reasonable care” of the health and safety of himself and the 69 passengers on Tram 2551 on 9 November 2016.

The prosecution alleged Dorris may have had a “micro-sleep” or become disorientated before the crash.

On Thursday, he broke down in front of the victims’ families as he gave evidence for the first time.

He wiped away tears as he described being arrested and put in the back of a police van after the crash, having never been in trouble before.

The scene near the tram crash in Croydon, Surrey, as the investigation into the deadly crash continues.
The scene near the tram crash in Croydon in 2016

The married father-of-one said: “I was told that I was being arrested for manslaughter because of multiple fatalities.

“I was broken. I could not believe what I was hearing.”

On arrival at a police station, he said: “I broke down. One of the officers kind of put his hand on my shoulder, tapped me in a reassuring way that was quite nice, to be honest. I was taken to a police cell.”

Later, he was released under investigation and took his family to stay in a hotel for four weeks due to the intense media interest in the disaster.

Read more:
Passengers ‘flung around’ during deadly tram crash
Families say ‘justice has been suffocated’

On his state of mind at the time, he said: “I was just all over the place, just broken, disbelief at what had happened.

“In some ways I held myself responsible for what happened. I could not explain how it happened.”

The defendant said lighting in the tunnel on the approach to the sharp turn where the derailment happened was “inconsistent”, and in the dark he had to rely on his “route knowledge and experience as a driver”.

Dorris said he got “confused” before the crash but not due to a lack of concentration as it had been a “normal average” day up until that point.

He went on to say how he continued to “struggle” with what happened and reached his “lowest point” during the lockdown when he was unable to start treatment for a “severe case of PTSD”, eventually leading to the breakdown of his marriage.

Asked what he would have done if he had felt tired before a shift, he said: “I could have just explained I was not feeling fit to work and they would sign me off.”

Flowers left at the scene near the tram crash in Croydon
Flowers left at the scene in 2016

The court heard how Dorris had applied to work on the trams in 2008 as a “stepping stone” to realise his ambition of becoming a train driver on the railways.

Previously, he had also worked early shifts as a bus driver and a milkman.

In his job as a bus driver, his only accident had been a “little scuff” with a car at Sloane Square on his first day out on his own, the defendant said.

Dorris, from Beckenham, southeast London, denies a single charge of failing to take reasonable care at work under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Leah Croucher’s family says hope she was alive has been ‘brutally extinguished in the cruellest and harshest of ways’ | UK News

The family of Leah Croucher have said their “faint glimmer of hope” of her being alive has been “brutally extinguished” after the teenager’s remains were found in the loft of a house.

In a tribute to their “bright, funny young” daughter, the 19-year-old’s family said they knew the “heartbreaking news” of her death would “come one day” but they are “devastated” to have been proven right.

“The deepest, darkest grief that we, Leah’s family and friends are experiencing over the past weeks shows us that glimmer was actually, foolishly, a shining beacon of hope, which has now been brutally extinguished in the cruellest and harshest of ways,” they said.

“It has been a long way to fall back to reality.”

Leah’s remains were found last week, more than three years after she went missing on her way to work at a finance company in Milton Keynes.

Items belonging to the teenager, who was a European Taekwondo champion, were also found in the same property in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, a few minutes from her home.

Her family described feeling a “pain almost too big to bear” following her disappearance, but added: “There is little that compares to the deep chasm Leah’s death has brought to us”.

“Leah was a bright, funny young woman who was a kind, loyal, helpful and caring soul,” their statement continued.

“Her smile lit up the room, and her laugh cheered all who heard it. Leah had a wonderful sense of humour, who found joy in everything she did.”

 Leah Croucher
Leah Croucher was a Taekwondo champion

‘We will soon be able to lay Leah to rest’

They added that while their “lives are darker”, they have taken “solace” in believing Leah “will only finally die when the last of us who remember her dies”.

“We will soon be able to lay Leah to rest, as she deserves, and say our final goodbyes, be able to grieve at Leah’s graveside and lay flowers for her,” her family added.

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“We have missed Leah for so long already, and now have the rest of our lives to mourn her, as well as the memories we will never be able to make.

Writing to Leah directly, the family said: “We hope soon that we will be able to look at pictures of you again, but they are too painful to even think about at the moment.”

“Give Haydon a big kiss and a big hug from us baby, we miss and love you both so much, but hope that you are together now, looking out for each other as always.

The tribute was referring to Haydon Croucher, Leah’s brother, who died on 24 November 2019, nine months after she went missing.

 Leah Croucher
Leah Croucher went missing on her way to work at a finance company

Who is the prime suspect?

The prime suspect in Leah’s murder investigation has been named by police as convicted sex offender Neil Maxwell, who was found dead on 20 April 2019 after he took his own life.

Police started searching the property on 10 October this year after receiving a tip-off from a member of the public.

Neil Maxwell
Neil Maxwell, who had keys to the house where Leah’s body was found, took his own life

Officers had visited the house on two earlier occasions but insisted this was the first time Leah’s disappearance was linked to the address – despite conducting about 4,000 house-to-house calls.

It has since emerged Maxwell was the only person with keys to the house, which was unoccupied when police were conducting their inquiries.

He was wanted in connection with a sexual assault and used false names and changed his mobile phone and vehicles to avoid police.