12 November 2007 - Morning session
1 Monday, 12th November 2007
2 (10.00 am)
3 (Jury present)
4 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Yes, Mr Hilliard.
5 MR HILLIARD: Dr Searle, I think, is the next witness.
6 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Thank you.
7 DR JOHN ALBERT SEARLE (sworn)
8 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Do you prefer to sit or stand?
9 A. I prefer to stand, sir.
10 Questions from MR HILLIARD.
11 MR HILLIARD: Can you give us your full name, please?
12 A. My full name is John Albert Searle.
13 Q. And your occupation?
14 A. I am a specialist in reconstruction of road collisions
15 from a scientific point of view.
16 Q. And your qualifications?
17 A. Yes, I have a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical
18 engineering from University College London and
19 I followed that with a PhD in road accident studies,
20 also from University College London. My background is
21 that of a research institute, a research institute that
22 was set up by the Government jointly with the motor
23 industry, and I worked there and I did crash testing
25 Over the course of some 25 years, I started doing
1 crash testing. Then I built up an accident
2 investigation team and I gained experience of topics
3 such as vehicle handling and braking and the like, and
4 eventually I became their scientific director with
5 a staff of about 200. I have also been doing this legal
6 work for a number of years and, altogether, I have
7 investigated in the region of 3,000 collisions.
8 The total number of crash tests for which I have been
9 responsible has been something in the region of 5,000.
10 Q. Were you instructed to report on the incident that we
11 are concerned with by solicitors acting on behalf of the
12 Ritz Hotel?
13 A. That is correct.
14 Q. I am just going to go through this I hope in the date
15 that you did the reports. You took part, we have heard,
16 in what I am going to call the "debris throw tests" with
17 Mr Jennings and Mr Read in July of 2007. Is that right?
18 A. Yes, that is right. Also the vehicle positioning tests
19 took place on the same day.
20 Q. We have heard that all three of you prepared a joint
21 report about those tests.
22 A. Yes, that is correct.
23 Q. Then, on 3rd September of this year, did you prepare
24 a more wide-ranging report about the crash which you
25 have updated since?
1 A. That is correct. That is right.
2 Q. Then did you also complete a report on 27th September of
3 2007 with somebody from TRL called Mr Sterling, in which
4 you commented particularly on the road layout in
5 the area of the Alma Tunnel and associated road safety
7 A. That is right. Tim Sterling is the highway safety
8 expert from TRL.
9 Q. Then I think on 2nd October of this year, you, Mr Read
10 and Mr Jennings prepared a further joint report in which
11 effectively you set out what you agreed about and what
12 you disagreed about.
13 A. That is correct. We call it a "joint statement".
14 Q. Do you have copies of all of those available to you, if
15 you need them?
16 A. I can have in a moment. Yes, I do.
17 Q. Now, did you go and look at the scene, although I think
18 not with Mr Sterling, but did you go and look at it on
19 31st July this year?
20 A. Yes, I will refer to my report, if I may, for checking
21 things like dates.
22 Q. Of course.
23 A. Yes, that is correct.
24 Q. Whilst you were there, did you watch the traffic?
25 A. That is correct.
1 Q. I think, in addition, during your night-time visit,
2 a video was taken.
3 A. That is right.
4 Q. We will look at a part of that in a moment. I am
5 looking, Dr Searle, at your paragraph 6.11 of your main
7 A. 6.1, yes.
8 Q. 6.11.
9 A. Sorry, 6.11.
10 Q. Did you say this, that:
11 "During the night-time visit, observations were made
12 of traffic behaviour and a video was taken. It was
13 found that lane keeping was not good and vehicles could
14 be seen straddling the two lanes, although no instance
15 was seen of another driver being put into difficulties
16 by this. In part, the lack of lane discipline is
17 perhaps due to the left-hand curvature."
18 Is that what you found?
19 A. That is what I observed, that lane keeping did not seem
20 to be particularly good. It is my impression that that
21 may have been the result of the left-hand curvature of
22 the road, but of course, that is by no means certain.
23 Q. I just want to understand. Do you mean the traffic in
24 the right-hand lane was, as it were, following the bend,
25 in other words, coming out from the right-hand lane? Is
1 that where the lane discipline problem was?
2 A. Yes, that is correct.
3 Q. So tendency by traffic in the right-hand lane to drift
4 out into the left-hand lane or over the line, but as you
5 say, to follow the bend?
6 A. Yes. There was a tendency by some drivers to do that
7 a little, but I saw no incidence of anyone being put
8 into difficulties by it. That seemed to be what
10 Q. Then looking at your next paragraph, 6.12, again, during
11 the night-time visit, did you make a survey of traffic
12 speeds using a radar gun?
13 A. Yes, I did.
14 Q. Whereabouts did you, as it were, take the readings from?
15 Where were you or whoever it was with the radar gun?
16 A. It was me with the radar gun and I was standing on top
17 of the underpass.
18 Q. Is this what you say, that no selection was exercised,
19 you tried to do every vehicle but, inevitably, some were
20 missed if there were two or more vehicles close
22 A. Yes, if two vehicles came through without much time
23 separation, then sometimes it is impossible to get both
24 of them and you end up missing one. They are not
25 necessarily two vehicles that are travelling at the same
1 speed, they just happen to be coming through at more or
2 less at the same time, maybe one in one lane and one in
3 the other lane, and you are not able to get both
5 Q. I think what you did manage to do was record the speed
6 for 62 vehicles, is that right?
7 A. Yes.
8 Q. Were the results as follows -- and we have to bear in
9 mind -- this is right, isn't it -- that the speed limit
10 is 50 kilometres per hour or 31 miles per hour?
11 A. Correct, at least it is now. We have been told it was
12 otherwise, but I believe that it was then as well.
13 Q. I think it is accepted that that was an error by
14 the witness who was asked.
15 Now, doing less than the speed limit, of the
16 62 vehicles, ten were going less than 50 kilometres per
17 hour; is that right?
18 A. Yes.
19 Q. The next bracket you looked at was 50 to 70 kilometres
20 per hour.
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. Is that in the order of 32 to 63 miles per hour?
23 A. Yes.
24 Q. 40 of the 62 were in that bracket. Is that right?
25 A. Yes.
1 Q. The next bracket, 70 to 90 kilometres per hour or
2 44 to 55 miles per hour --
3 A. Yes, of which there were ten.
4 Q. Then, lastly, greater than 90 kilometres per hour, so
5 56 miles per hour plus, just two. Is that right?
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. Looking at your paragraph 6.13, from your observations
8 at the scene, you thought that the speed limit of
9 50 kilometres per hour was widely ignored?
10 A. Yes.
11 Q. Indeed, of the 62, only ten were doing less than it.
12 A. And those appeared to be mainly taxis cruising without
13 passengers and hoping to pick up a passenger, so not in
14 any hurry to go anywhere.
15 Q. You thought that it was not difficult to follow this
16 particular dual carriageway road at a speed of 60 miles
17 per hour or indeed higher?
18 A. 65.
19 Q. 65, forgive me.
20 A. Yes, whilst I was there, as I note here, we did see
21 a Saab come through at a very fast speed, faster than
22 anything picked up on the radar gun, but that was when
23 I was not behind the radar gun, so to speak, I was just
24 setting up, and it is apparent that occasionally you do
25 get very fast vehicles there.
1 Q. Did you actually ever drive the route at 65 miles per
2 hour or higher?
3 A. No. I did not have a police escort and so it would have
4 been illegal to do so.
5 Q. Your view was, is this right, that potential
6 difficulties come on that road from encountering drivers
7 who come out from the sliproad when it is inappropriate
8 to do so or who fail to exercise lane discipline?
9 A. Yes. I would have said that that was a source of
10 problems here, rather than simply not being able to
11 follow the road -- it is a dual carriageway road -- and
12 to drive along it at 65 miles per hour is not going to
13 be particularly difficult, although, of course, illegal.
14 Q. Now, just going on please to your paragraph 18.1 in this
15 report --
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. -- did you say this:
18 "On making a visit to the site, an immediate
19 impression is obtained that it is a dangerous one.
20 There are a number of factors which contribute to that
21 impression, but perhaps above all the unguarded pillars
22 throughout the length of the underpass ..."
23 A. That is right. The -- well, I believe the jury have
24 seen these for themselves. Down the length of the
25 underpass, which runs to about 150 metres, there are
1 completely unguarded pillars at fairly close spacing, so
2 that anybody that leaves the carriageway to the left
3 will almost inevitably make a head-on collision into one
4 or other of these pillars. I regard that as a very
5 dangerous feature.
6 Q. Did you then set out in your next paragraph, 18.2,
7 hazards which in your view would appear to increase
8 the risk of collisions between vehicles?
9 A. Yes.
10 Q. What were they?
11 A. Well, firstly, there is a left bend as you come in.
12 I say a "left bend", it is a slight bend. It is not
13 a sharp bend by any means. But the road does curve to
14 the left as one approaches the underpass and the lane
15 width is not generous. It is slightly below what you
16 would expect on a British dual carriageway road.
17 Lane-keeping, for whatever reason -- and I have given
18 you already my impression as to the reason -- but
19 lane-keeping is not particularly good. There is
20 a slight hill brow as one goes into the underpass just
21 before, and that again adds to any difficulties in that
22 it restricts the sight distance.
23 Then another feature is just as you are getting to
24 the entrance to the underpass, a sliproad comes in from
25 the right. This is a sliproad that may conceivably have
1 priorite a droite, although whether it is has or not
2 I really could not tell you. All I can say is that
3 drivers who come in from that sliproad do take the
4 obvious precaution, or at least most of them do, of
5 taking a look on the main road to see what is coming.
6 I think that we would all think it fairly dangerous to
7 pull out on to the main dual carriageway road without
8 even taking a look.
9 All those features make collisions between vehicles
10 at or near the entry to the underpass more likely and
11 a collision between vehicles is very likely. It can
12 very likely be followed by a collision into the concrete
13 pillars that line the route.
14 Q. I am now looking, Doctor, at the joint statement that
15 you prepared with Mr Sterling, all right, on
16 27th September of this year. You have mentioned this
17 question of priority to the right, so does the traffic
18 joining have priority over the traffic on the main
19 carriageway. I am looking at your paragraph 1.2.3.
20 Again, like Mr Read, is this right, that the
21 understanding of yourself and Mr Sterling was that
22 French traffic law causes sliproad traffic to enjoy
23 priority over main road traffic? That is what you have
24 referred to as "priorite a droite".
25 A. Yes.
1 Q. Although you said:
2 "It seems that there can be confusion and risk
3 associated with this."
4 A. Yes. I am of course not an expert on the law and
5 certainly not an expert on French law, and so I would
6 leave it to other people to tell you whether, legally,
7 the sliproad has priority. There certainly seems to be
8 confusion and, if it does have priority, I think that
9 that is a very dangerous feature.
10 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Do the French have anything
11 equivalent to our Highway Code?
12 A. They do.
13 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: What does their Highway Code say
14 about it, if anything?
15 A. I am afraid I cannot tell you. I know that roads which
16 do not have priority from the right normally have the
17 equivalent of a "give way" marking, which this does not
18 have. But I am afraid, sir, I am not really able to
19 help you on the legal position, as to what the legal
20 position was. I can tell you that drivers do not treat
21 it as if they do have priority. They have more sense
22 than to try to do so.
23 MR HILLIARD: As far as the nature or the extent of the risk
24 associated with the sliproad is concerned, ordinarily
25 would you resolve that by looking at accident records?
1 A. Yes, that would give an objective measure of risk
2 because normally one would have access to accident
3 records going back a number of years and one could see
4 what had been taking place.
5 Q. If you were simply looking at data for accidents in the
6 tunnel, unless you had information about the facts of
7 the particular collision, that would not of itself,
8 would it, enable you to tell whether the sliproad and
9 traffic emerging from the sliproad was a factor in
10 the collision?
11 A. It would not, of itself, be definitive, be certain as to
12 what was the cause. But when one has gone there and
13 seen what appears to be a dangerous situation with
14 a junction just ahead, with poor lane discipline, with,
15 above everything else, these unguarded concrete pillars,
16 if you then found that there is in fact a high accident
17 rate -- and such figures as we have seen do suggest
18 a very high accident rate -- then one would really then
19 be in a position where one would need evidence that
20 it was not these things that were doing it.
21 Q. So from what you saw -- do I have this right -- your
22 starting point really, if you heard about an accident in
23 the tunnel, would be to work on the basis that it was
24 something to do with the sliproad and poor lane
25 discipline unless somebody could demonstrate otherwise?
1 Is that really what it comes to?
2 A. Well, I would certainly start on the basis that if there
3 have been other accidents, if there have been accidents
4 there, that they are probably related to the physical
5 situation that we see, and if one comes upon a new
6 incident -- of course, on that incident, one would
7 probably have a great deal of information to be able to
8 make a proper approach to identifying what has happened
9 in that accident. But when one looks at the generality
10 of what has happened there, one would need to work on
11 what appear to be the factors that make that a dangerous
13 Q. Is this right: such information as you had about
14 statistics for the tunnel or the area of the tunnel had
15 no detail about the particular incidence?
16 A. That is correct. The figures that we were given -- if
17 I could just say what they were.
18 Q. Yes.
19 A. They came from the French experts who looked at this,
20 and they gave figures that over a 15-year period, there
21 had been eight deaths. Now whether that information is
22 correct or not, I do not know, but that is what we were
23 told, and if it is correct, it is a very high accident
24 rate indeed.
25 Q. Did the eight deaths include the three deaths here?
1 A. We do not know that.
2 Q. As far as where the 15-year period started and where it
3 ended, again I think you had no information about that;
4 is that right?
5 A. That is correct. The information is not satisfactory by
6 any means, but it is the only information that we have,
7 and if it is correct, then it does suggest a very high
8 accident rate.
9 To my mind, it is being done principally by those
10 concrete pillars and the fairly high speeds that people
11 adopt at this location. Those two things do not go well
13 Q. Do you still have the joint report that you prepared
14 with Mr Sterling?
15 A. Yes, I have.
16 Q. Your paragraph 1.2.7, please -- you have it; not
17 everybody else has -- can you explain the point that you
18 are making there please?
19 A. Yes. The point that I am making there is that if
20 a vehicle comes out from the sliproad onto the dual
21 carriageway, almost inevitably the speed of the vehicle
22 coming out from the sliproad is less than the speed of
23 the vehicle coming along the dual carriageway. I mean,
24 obviously you could think of exceptions if some
25 particularly slow vehicle was coming along the dual
1 carriageway, but in the vast, vast majority of cases,
2 joining vehicles coming out of this sliproad are going
3 to come out at a considerably slower speed than vehicles
4 that are just coming along the dual carriageway.
5 If priorite a droite -- that is, the right to emerge
6 from a road on the right -- if that is exercised, then
7 with just ordinary speeds of vehicles on the main road,
8 there is a risk of a collision occurring. You cannot
9 just pull out of a sliproad onto a dual carriageway
10 without looking without a risk of an accident of some
11 sort or at least putting the other driver into
13 Q. We mentioned earlier the video film that you had taken
14 at your night-time visit, Dr Searle, on 31st July of
15 this year.
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. I think you took some film standing, is this right, in
18 the area of the sliproad, the one that, as it were,
19 emerges on to the main carriageway?
20 A. Yes.
21 Q. Did you also take some film standing slightly further
23 A. Yes.
24 Q. From each position, did you notice that the headlights
25 of on-coming vehicles could present as a sudden flash of
1 light? Shall we look at the film there?
2 A. By all means look at the video, but I do not recall
3 that. It is just headlights that one commonly sees.
4 (Video shown)
5 Q. If you just watch the lights, you will see them as they
6 emerge over the wall really from the position that you
7 are in. In a moment you will just move back to
8 the other position that I was talking about.
9 A. This position, if I could just say, is immediately
10 before the sliproad, so you can see the vehicles joining
11 from the sliproad there (indicates). Now this is
12 a little further back.
13 Q. Is that as it appears to the eye, do you see, the lights
14 of the traffic in the other carriageway?
15 A. Well, to be honest, I cannot specifically recall. I did
16 not notice any problem with the lights of other
17 vehicles. I agree with you that they do become visible
18 for an instant through that -- or a second or two --
19 through that little gap there that you can see before
20 the pillars start and then further up here. Whether
21 that is so from a driver's eye height is something
22 I could not really answer. I did not see it as
23 a driving problem of any sort.
24 Q. Now, I just want to come on, please, Dr Searle, to
25 the crash on 31st August and events leading up to it.
1 It is agreed, is it not, between all of the experts
2 that there was contact between the Mercedes and between
3 a white Fiat Uno car?
4 A. Yes, it is virtually -- well, it is certain to my mind.
5 There is not only the pieces on the road showing that
6 a collision with a Uno has occurred at that location,
7 but there is paint on the Mercedes showing that it has
8 been in collision with a Uno. Those two taken together
9 make the matter certain.
10 Q. I think there is also agreement, is this right, about
11 the speed of the Mercedes, namely that at impact with
12 pillar 13, somewhere between 60 and 70 miles per hour?
13 A. Yes. The --
14 Q. If I can just give you the whole picture and then tell
15 me if this is all agreed. I think that, also the fact
16 that speed was about the same when the double tyre marks
17 were made and when the single one was made; is that
18 essentially agreed?
19 A. Yes, it is. Just to give the exact figure, the German
20 team at Daimler Benz, who replicated the crash, found
21 64 plus or minus 5 miles per hour for the collision
23 The pair of tyre marks, they are from the rear
24 wheels only, and the speed that we calculate for
25 those -- all the experts calculate 63 plus or minus 6
1 and therefore it seems that there has been no braking.
2 The single tyre mark is so close to the double
3 tyre mark that there is no real opportunity to lose
4 speed in between and, therefore, all the experts
5 concluded that the speed at the entry to the
6 Alma Underpass had been around 63/64 miles per hour, as
7 seen in the later evidence.
8 Q. Is this right, that you are reliant on physical evidence
9 from the scene and from the Mercedes, which you had
10 the opportunity to look at to try to reconstruct the
12 A. That is correct.
13 Q. That, as we know, has been collected and documented not
14 by any of the three experts that we have seen and heard
15 from, but by other people; yes?
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. In theory, is this right, that there are at least two
18 possibilities for the contact between the two vehicles?
19 I suppose one possibility is that the Fiat was in the
20 correct lane, that the Mercedes moved out to its left to
21 pass the Fiat and simply did not make it;
22 alternatively --
23 A. That was --
24 Q. Can I just give you the two and tell me if these
25 please -- before we look and see if reconstruction can
1 help us as to whether these are theoretical
2 possibilities; secondly that the Fiat moved out into
3 the Mercedes' path and the Mercedes took avoiding action
4 but nonetheless there was contact?
5 A. Yes. Although I would add to that that very recently in
6 evidence, I think that a further idea was canvassed by
7 I think Mr Jennings, which is that the Mercedes may have
8 run wide and, in that way, made contact with the Fiat by
9 running wide. I think that was a suggestion made in
10 passing. It was not included in the joint statement or
11 anything like that, but it was mentioned in passing by
12 Mr Jennings I think.
13 Q. As far as the physical evidence from the scene is
14 concerned and, in particular, lens debris -- do you have
15 this plan [INQ-PLAN-0007]? It is in our section 10.
16 A. Yes, I have.
17 Q. We can see from this plan, can we not, that the
18 fragments collected by the French police extended over
19 a distance of just over 8 metres. Is that right?
20 A. That is correct.
21 Q. Starting, we can see, at 8.55 metres into the tunnel and
22 ending 16.65 metres into the tunnel.
23 A. That is right.
24 Q. As you know and you have heard, the red plastic from
25 the Fiat, the clear from the Mercedes.
1 A. That is right.
2 Q. And --
3 A. There were also two other items of debris which we see
4 here (indicating).
5 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Can you just point out again?
6 A. It has got away from me.
7 MR HILLIARD: It is the Mercedes door mirror and light,
8 isn't it?
9 A. I will move the chair, if I may. Two other items of
10 debris here and here (indicates) which are,
11 respectively, the reflector from the indicator and
12 the Mercedes right-door mirror. Those were found, as
13 you can see, on the left side of the carriageway, near
14 to the pillars.
15 Q. Is this right -- I think we saw this on a photograph --
16 that the rear light cluster of the Fiat would, as well
17 as red plastic, have included orange and clear plastic;
18 is that right?
19 A. That is correct.
20 Q. If we can just relate this, please, to the debris throw
21 tests that you conducted. The fragment fields or the
22 range over which fragments were found in your test was
23 greater than 8 metres; is that right?
24 A. That is correct.
25 Q. Did that suggest to you that the French police had not
1 in fact recovered all of it?
2 A. Well, there are several possibilities, of which that is
4 Q. All right. Let's go to your 12.1. Can we go there in
5 your report?
6 A. Another possibility, as I say in my report, is that
7 the fragment field may have been short because the Fiat
8 was travelling at a slow speed. So that is another
10 Q. You gave, is this right, in your report, three
11 possibility explanations why the French had only
12 recovered fragments from a relatively short field?
13 A. Yes.
14 Q. The first, as you say, is that the Fiat was travelling
15 more slowly than 50 kilometres per hour --
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. -- because you had found a longer field, but the lowest
18 speed at which the Fiat was going in your test was
19 50 kilometres per hour, was it not?
20 A. That is right. We tested at 50 kilometres per hour, and
21 if the Fiat has been going more slowly than that, then
22 of course you will get a shorter fragment field.
23 Q. But if that had been the case, if the Fiat had been
24 travelling at a slower speed, in your view -- I am
25 looking at your paragraph 12.2 -- did that mean that
1 the contact between the two vehicles would have been at
2 some point well along the single tyre mark?
3 A. That is right. In our tests, the experts found that
4 the throw distance for the fragments was about 4, 5 or
5 6 metres to the first fragment or about 12 metres or so
6 to the concentration of fragments.
7 Now if, in fact, the Fiat was travelling more slowly
8 than the speed at which we tested, then those distances
9 would be reduced and the point of impact would be --
10 instead of being 5 metres back from the first fragment,
11 it would be only perhaps 3 metres back from the first
12 fragment. So it would be part-way along the single
13 tyre mark.
14 Similarly, if you work from the concentration of
15 fragments, that is from the middle of this field, and
16 you go back a dozen metres or so, you come to the start
17 of the single tyre mark. But that dozen metres at
18 a slower speed would be rather less, the fragments would
19 go less far, so you might only need to go back, say,
20 9 metres. In that way, it would explain the short
21 length of the fragment field and it would put the point
22 of impact part-way along the mark.
23 Q. So the first possible explanation for a shorter fragment
24 field than you had found in your tests, the first one
25 you considered was whether the Fiat was going more
1 slowly than 50 kilometres per hour. As you have said,
2 if that was the case, you thought the point of contact
3 would then be some way along the single tyre mark. Is
4 that right?
5 A. Yes.
6 Q. If that were where the point of contact between the two
7 vehicles was, somewhere after the tyre mark has started
8 to be made, would that suggest that the Mercedes had in
9 fact been in difficulties before the contact?
10 A. Yes, it would mean that the Mercedes was already making
11 a swerve along the curved mark. If I can just
12 illustrate that on here. We have the Mercedes making
13 that mark, coming along here (indicates) and part-way
14 along that mark, the collision occurs, and when that
15 collision occurs, the Mercedes is already in the process
16 of swerving and leaving a mark, and, of course, it is
17 already -- it is, of course, on its left side of
18 the road and the Fiat is extending across the
19 lane-dividing line.
20 Q. So that is what would follow from that first possible
21 explanation for the short fragment field.
22 In your view, is that what happened, that the
23 Mercedes was already making that mark at the time of
24 the collision, or not?
25 A. I do not know the speed of the Fiat. There is an upper
1 limit that can be put on the speed of the Fiat because
2 we know that the Fiat managed to avoid becoming enmeshed
3 in the collision which followed and that puts a top
4 limit on the speed of the Fiat, but there is no lower
5 limit. The Fiat appears not to have -- the top limit is
6 about 40 miles per hour.
7 Q. Can you just explain? As you say, you can put a top
8 limit on it because otherwise you have said it would
9 become enmeshed in the collision. Can you break that
10 down? I am sure it is obvious, but just explain if it
11 had been going faster, what you think would have
13 A. The Mercedes, after leaving that mark, goes on to make
14 the double tyre mark here (indicates) made from its rear
15 wheels and then collides with the pillar and slews
16 across the carriageway like that (indicates). The Fiat
17 has managed to avoid becoming involved in that;
18 the Mercedes has come onto this side of the road, there
19 was no contact with the Fiat there; the Mercedes slewed
20 across the carriageway from here to here, the Fiat did
21 not get involved with that and collide with it.
22 The Fiat has not only stayed out of any collisions
23 like that, but also -- and that requires a speed of no
24 higher than 40 miles per hour or so. The experts are
25 agreed on that -- to avoid becoming entangled in what
1 happened, the Fiat cannot have been travelling any
2 higher than 40.
3 One can say, in addition, to my mind, that also
4 the Fiat driver did not have any difficulty in avoiding
5 becoming entangled. There are no skid marks on the road
6 or anything like that from the Fiat. The inference from
7 that is that it was not travelling just a little below
8 40, but so much below 40 that the Fiat driver had no
9 problem. It did not even think he had a problem. So
10 when this huge crash occurs ahead of him, he does not
11 bang his foot on the brakes and skid at all. There is
12 no mark from that. To my mind, it is very likely that
13 he was travelling no faster than about 30 and it is
14 certainly quite possible that he was going more slowly
15 still than that.
16 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: It would still have been a pretty
17 frightening experience for the Fiat driver, wouldn't it?
18 A. It would, and one where he knew that he had been
19 contacted -- that there had been a contact on his
20 vehicle -- because the bang from that is utterly -- you
21 could not fail to be very well aware of it and the
22 experts are all agreed upon that as well.
23 So he heard and felt that, and then there was this
24 huge crash ahead, but nevertheless he has not been
25 travelling fast enough for him to feel that it warranted
1 any emergency braking because had he done emergency
2 braking, there would have been a pair of parallel skid
3 marks on the road here where he has been, wherever
4 it was -- here in this lane or on the lane-dividing line
5 or wherever he was, there would have been a pair of skid
6 marks where he has put his foot on the brake pedal.
7 MR HILLIARD: One possibility for the fragment field being
8 shorter than what you were finding in your test is that
9 the Fiat is going slower than 50 kilometres per hour.
10 If that was the case, that would, in your view, mean
11 that the impact was at a point when the Mercedes was
12 somewhere along the single tyre mark?
13 A. Yes.
14 Q. I just want to understand: in your view is that
15 possibility as likely as any other for the position of
16 the impact?
17 A. Yes, I would have said so.
18 Q. Right.
19 A. It is an evidential matter really, as to -- if we have
20 witnesses, for example, that can speak about the speed
21 of the Fiat or whatever. There is no real way from
22 the physical evidence of saying whether that is correct
23 or not.
24 Q. The second and third possibilities that you considered
25 for the short fragment field was that the French police
1 had not in fact collected all of the fragments. Is that
3 A. Yes, I considered that.
4 Q. Do you think that that is in fact likely?
5 A. Again, I cannot really say. I did wonder because, on
6 the original French plans of this, this area here is
7 ringed around and the French have written, in French,
8 "probable zone of collision".
9 Now it may be, when you see that, a thought that
10 occurs to you is that perhaps they are looking there at
11 the start of the fragments and that there were ones
12 further along in which they were less interested because
13 they were interested in looking at the probable
14 collision area, which would perhaps involve the initial
16 Then the other possibility is that they did not do
17 their job thoroughly and what we see here is only
18 the larger and more obvious concentration of fragments,
19 and that there were further fragments, small fragments,
20 that they did not log, so that in that way we are
21 looking at the concentration of fragments but not at
22 the extremities.
23 Q. So --
24 A. I would say one more thing in that during our test,
25 the fragment fields may have been a little extended.
1 A problem that we had with the hammer, the striker, is
2 that after its first hit, where of course you have
3 a large release of fragments, it did tend to swing and
4 then make a much lighter hit at a later time.
5 The experts saw this problem and attempted to stop
6 it by putting some foam there. But it is possible that
7 we have rather got a longer fragment field than we ought
8 to have. But that does not, of course, affect the
9 location of the first fragment, nor does it affect
10 the location of the concentration of fragments. It is
11 just that our tests had rather an extended tail end,
12 which perhaps one should not put too much reliance on.
13 Q. So the second possibility for the small fragment field
14 was that the French police had logged only the initial
15 fragments; yes?
16 A. Yes, being particularly interested in those.
17 Q. Did that, in fact, look as if that was what had happened
18 here because the initial ones in your tests were small
19 and isolated; is that right? It did not look as if that
20 is what they were getting. They were getting groups of
21 fragments, were they not?
22 A. Yes. Well the initial fragments in our tests were not
23 always small ones, but as I think Mr Read and
24 Mr Jennings put it, more often than not it started with
25 a small fragment or even two small fragments.
1 Here the break is rather different in some ways. It
2 seems that there were perhaps about seven large
3 fragments that came out there, 4 and 3, and those were
4 subsequently overrun to make a large number of
5 fragments. But it is possible that there were -- that
6 the break was rather different and you got a small
7 number of large fragments, and just having a small
8 number like that would tend to cut down the length of
9 the fragment field. So there are all these
10 possibilities, but generally those are the possible
11 reasons for a small fragment field.
12 Q. Then the third possibility you looked at for the small
13 fragment field was that the French police again had been
14 partial in what they recorded, but that they had only
15 noted, is this right, the larger and more obvious
16 concentrations of debris?
17 A. Yes. I am not sure that I like the word "partial"
18 because it suggests intention.
19 Q. Well, imagine it does not suggest intention. That would
20 be it, wouldn't it? In either case, that would mean,
21 would it not, that they had only recorded part of what
22 was there?
23 A. It may be that what has been recorded has not been as
24 careful as a thorough search would have revealed and
25 that what we are looking at here is the obvious
1 concentration that nobody could miss, so to speak, but,
2 either side of that, extended small fragments that they
3 did not record.
4 Q. If you look, please, at the photographs we have in our
5 section 11 and picture 4 [INQ0001576]. If this is from
6 the collision, the explanation that they had only noted
7 the larger and more obvious concentrations of debris
8 would not really apply, would it, to what at least is
9 described here as "unmarked lens debris" because it does
10 look to be both large and obvious?
11 A. It does look fairly large and obvious, but that is
12 PC Read's attribution, "unmarked lens debris". It is
13 certainly not anything that the French have said.
14 Q. No. I just repeat my question. If you assume for these
15 purposes that that has come from the collision, the
16 suggestion that perhaps they had only been recovering
17 large and obvious concentrations of fragments could not
18 be the explanation, could it, for the failure to pick
19 that up?
20 A. Not if that was of the same type as the other ones, but
21 if that is not of the same type as the other ones -- and
22 so they looked at that and thought "We are not logging
23 that because it does not belong to this collision", so
24 that was out -- then it still remains the case that what
25 they did log may have been the more obvious
1 concentration of fragments of what they did attribute to
2 the collision.
3 Q. Absolutely. Is this right, though, that just because
4 the fragments might be a different colour, in your view
5 would that be a dangerous basis for not picking them up
6 because, as we have seen, for example, the Fiat light
7 cluster has more than one colour in it?
8 A. Yes, it is true that it has red, orange and white. But
9 if one is picking up -- if one comes upon a group of
10 fragments and it is a different shade of red and if they
11 are obviously weathered, if there is road dirt on both
12 sides for example, all these sorts of factors, then
13 I think that many police officers in a case not as
14 important perhaps as this one would not collect
15 the fragments.
16 In a very important case, of course, everything
17 would be collected. But in a less important case,
18 the officer concerned would look at the fragments and
19 just think to himself that that is nothing to do with it
20 and ignore it.
21 Q. If that debris that we are looking at in picture 4
22 [INQ0001576], if that was not fresh debris -- can you
23 help us with your opinion -- would you expect it to have
24 dispersed, as it were, more than it obviously has done
25 or not?
1 A. Well, it is difficult to say. I would not necessarily
2 expect it to have dispersed. It is not in the wheel
3 tracks and, consequently, it would be capable of staying
4 there for a considerable time. It does appear to have
5 been fairly well pulverised in places and so it is
6 difficult to say just how long it might or might not
7 have been there, but there is no reason to suppose it
8 has been particularly fresh.
9 Q. When you say "fairly well pulverised in places", do you
10 mean that notwithstanding the wheel tracks point --
11 I just want to follow what you are saying -- do you mean
12 that it does look to you as if, nonetheless, traffic has
13 actually gone over that?
14 A. Yes, but then, of course, when the Mercedes is blocking
15 the right-hand lane, as it was, then traffic patterns
16 are not at all what they would be normally, so instead
17 of vehicles going with a wheel either side of that, as
18 they would normally, when you have the obstruction up
19 ahead, everybody has to move out and go round or
20 whatever they do do.
21 Q. At night in the tunnel, with whatever lighting there
22 was, in your view, how easy a situation is it to be
23 making decisions about how old debris such as that is?
24 A. Well, as I have said -- I will be frank. I feel that it
25 should not have been done in this case.
1 Q. It should not have been picked up?
2 A. It should not have been merely put to one side in this
3 case. It should, in this case, have been collected
4 because this is a very high-profile case, of course, as
5 we all know, and that extra care was required. What has
6 been done is the sort of treatment that you might expect
7 in a run-of-the-mill incident, a run-of-the-mill
8 collision, where nothing huge is going to turn on
10 Q. Now --
11 A. It is the sort of thing that would be done in such
12 a case, at night or whenever: a collision investigation
13 officer would look and make a decision that it was
14 obviously old debris and not log it.
15 Q. If you have the photograph and picture 4 [INQ0001576],
16 the part, whether from this impact or not -- but
17 the part that is circled as "unmarked lens debris",
18 we can see it. It is plainly some metres back from
19 the ringed parts. It is, as it were, further back from
20 pillar one, isn't it, because that is the first pillar
21 we can see in the picture?
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. I do not know -- is it fair to say -- is it in the order
24 of being by about the start of the single tyre mark?
25 I know it is very difficult with perspective to
1 estimate, but is that the sort of position we should
2 think of that debris as being in?
3 A. Yes, the other experts and I have agreed that it is
4 about 7 metres back from the first item which is ringed,
5 so that --
6 Q. So it would put it at about the start because I think
7 the tyre mark starts about a metre in; is that right?
8 A. The tyre mark is about a metre in, so, yes, it would put
9 that at about half a metre along the single tyre mark or
11 Q. As you know -- and I just want to give you the
12 opportunity to comment upon it -- what Mr Read says is
13 this: if that is from the impact between the two
14 vehicles, that what he would expect is that before
15 a concentration of that kind, further back you would
16 find the small, as it were, isolated parts, one or two
17 or something of that sort -- you would find those
18 particles and then the impact would be some metres
19 before that.
20 As you know, he says that if you follow that process
21 back -- so you go from this concentration back some
22 metres to small isolated fragments, back some more
23 metres then for the point of impact -- he says that in
24 his view that puts the point of the impact as being in
25 the order of 10 metres or so before the start of the
1 tunnel. You heard him give that evidence, I think.
2 A. Yes. I did.
3 Q. Can you give us your comments, please, about that?
4 A. My first comment about that is that it is, so to speak,
5 a series of speculations about if that is debris from
6 this collision, which is a matter of evidence to be
7 decided, then, as I have said, more often than not,
8 there is a small particle. The debris distribution
9 starts with a small particle. So you have to assume,
10 yes, that happened here, and if you do that, and so you
11 have 7 metres and then perhaps another 2 metres or so,
12 as I think has been suggested for the extra particles,
13 that gives you 9 metres.
14 You started from that point of the first ringed item
15 [INQ-PLAN-0007], and so if you went back 9 metres from
16 there, then since that first ringed idea is 8.55 metres
17 inside, it means that your first microscopic particle or
18 whatever, if it started like that, would be about half
19 a metre outside the underpass.
20 Then you go back a throw distance from that, that is
21 another 5 metres, and so you would be 5.5 metres outside
22 the underpass, and that, if I can say, sir, with
23 respect, is pushing the evidence as far as one can.
24 I do not mean that in any unkind way. I just mean that
25 PC Read intends it to be what could be rather than what
2 Q. Do you accept that, then -- what, 5.5 metres, you say,
3 is really taking the evidence as far as it could?
4 A. That is right and I have just done the arithmetic for
5 you and that is what it comes out to be.
6 Q. You mentioned 2 metres. I think you had no --
7 A. 2 or 3, I think.
8 Q. I do not think in any instance you had an initial
9 fragment after less than 3 metres, did you?
10 A. No. What I have done is to start from this point, which
11 is 8.5 metres. I will do it again just in case I have
12 it wrong.
13 Start from this point, which is 8.5 metres inside.
14 You then go back to the uncertain items 7 metres before
15 and, then, to the supposed possible small fragments that
16 you cannot see, 2 or even 3 metres before that. So that
17 that would --
18 Q. Sorry, just help us. Why do you go back 2 or even
19 3 metres for those?
20 A. Because I think that is what Mr Read and Mr Jennings
22 Q. No, but do you think that is right? Don't worry about
23 what they said. Why, in your view, do you only go back
24 2 or 3 metres from those? Why that?
25 A. Well, because from my recollection, firstly, it is only
1 the case that more often than not it would start with
2 a small particle and, secondly, when it did, you got
3 large particles 2 or 3 metres into the fragment field.
4 So it seems reasonable to have your 7 to the uncertain
5 group and then 2 or 3, and if we take the middle of
6 that, say 2.5, that gives 9.5. The first recorded
7 fragment is 8.5 inside, so that this hypothetical small
8 fragment would be about 1 metre outside the underpass.
9 Then you have -- on top of that 1 metre, you have
10 the forward throw of the fragments before anything is
11 found, and if we say that is 5, then the final answer is
12 that, on that hypothesis, the collision has occurred
13 about 6 metres outside the underpass, which would be
14 about here (indicating), just 6 metres outside.
15 Q. Now you, I think, have seen the sketches that were drawn
16 by the various police officers at different times. Is
17 that right?
18 A. I have.
19 Q. I think on the sketches -- and it is shown on our plan,
20 although it may not be quite so ease to see on ours --
21 is the single tyre mark. Excuse me for not using
22 technical language, but as it were, as you are going
23 along the road, the single tyre mark goes into the left
24 before coming, as it were, out to the right? It has
25 a curve in and then a curve out?
1 A. It has a right-hand curvature.
2 Q. Mr Jennings said -- do you remember -- that if you
3 follow the curve of the single tyre mark back for about
4 10 metres or so, that that would put the off-side of the
5 Mercedes in about the area of the centre line, which he
6 thought -- do you remember him saying this -- was also
7 consistent with the impact into the Fiat being at that
8 point. Do you remember him saying that?
9 A. Yes.
10 Q. What do you say about that, please?
11 A. Well, firstly, what is being suggested by you is that
12 the impact occurred --
13 Q. No, I am asking you just to comment on what he
14 suggested. It is not my suggestion.
15 A. Well, if Mr Jennings is suggesting 10 metres back, then
16 I am not very sure where he gets that 10 metres from
17 because my arithmetic, which I have just been through
18 twice, gives more like 6 metres outside the underpass.
19 Then the next component of that suggestion is that
20 the Mercedes, when you come back from this mark -- that
21 you have to continue the curvature of that mark, so that
22 you are continuing back that much, either 6 metres which
23 is my arithmetic or 10 metres that Mr Jennings
24 suggested, but anyway, you go back that much and it is
25 always on that curvature.
1 Now, that to me sounds an unreliable assumption
2 because, of course, we know that when cornering on that
3 curvature, the Mercedes leaves a tyre mark on the road,
4 so that it seems unreliable to extend that back when
5 there is no tyre mark on the road. If you do that, you
6 are just making the assumption, so to speak, that
7 the Mercedes has come in on this curve extended back,
8 then at 6 metres back -- my arithmetic -- the Mercedes
9 is still within its own lane and at 10 metres back,
10 the Mercedes is about up to the lane-dividing line and
11 so too, on the other side of the line, would be
12 the Fiat.
13 Q. Now if you have the plan, can you help us please --
14 aside from what we have marked -- first of all, please,
15 with whether you think there would in fact have been any
16 other fragment, if so, whereabouts would there have
17 been, and then, on that basis please, can you help us
18 with where you say the impact was?
19 A. Well, I see no reason for supposing that there were
20 other fragments.
21 Q. Right.
22 A. One can always suppose that the police have missed this
23 or that, but when the police make a record of what they
24 found and they say "this is what we found", I see no
25 real reason to doubt it. That is the answer to your
1 first question. I think you put two questions at once.
2 Perhaps if you --
3 Q. Yes. Based upon where the fragments are -- so as far as
4 you are concerned, you work on the basis that what
5 we have ringed is all there was -- based upon that,
6 where do you say the impact between the two vehicles
8 A. What we have here are the fragments and the obvious
9 place to locate the collision is 5 metres or
10 thereabouts, say 4 or 6, from the first fragment, which
11 gives you a point of impact -- since that is about 5.
12 So if you go back about 5, you have a point of impact in
13 this general region here (indicates) near the start of
14 the single tyre mark.
15 If you go back 12 metres from the concentration of
16 fragments, so on here you measure out something like 12,
17 which would be about a hand-span there, and you come
18 back that much from the middle of this concentration of
19 fragments, again, you get to a point of impact that is
20 near to the start of the single tyre mark.
21 So that, to my mind, is where the collision has
22 occurred, and even if one accepted the uncertain group
23 of fragments and even if one went further and accepted
24 that there might have been further fragments ahead of
25 the uncertain group, you would still only be here,
1 6 metres or so outside, and that would be where
2 the collision occurred.
3 What all those locations have in common is that
4 the Mercedes is on its correct side of the road when
5 that occurs. It is on the left-hand side of the road
6 and the correct side when going past.
7 Q. You say that because, simply by virtue of the dimensions
8 of the Mercedes, if it is leaving what must be
9 a left-hand tyre mark at the point the tyre mark is,
10 yes, if it is doing that, it must be in its correct
12 A. Correct lane, that is right. The Mercedes cannot have
13 left that from its right-hand wheels or it would have
14 been colliding with that pillar, pillar number 1.
15 Q. Yes.
16 A. Therefore it has come from its left wheels, I think
17 probably its left front wheel, but then if you look at
18 the dimensions of the Mercedes, it has been wholly
19 within that lane and that means that the Fiat has been
20 across the lane-dividing line by an amount, not fully
21 across, but straddling the lane-dividing line.
22 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Mr Hilliard, when you reach
23 a convenient moment, it is about time for the morning
25 MR HILLIARD: Yes. There is just one more on this and then
1 we will have our break and then we will come back
2 afterwards, Doctor, to the question of the nature of the
3 contact between the vehicles.
4 The last point on this that I wanted to ask you
5 about is as follows: we have seen where the various
6 parts of debris are and you have pointed out
7 the Mercedes door mirror and light cover and so on --
8 A. It is not a light cover, it is a reflector.
9 Q. Forgive me. The fact that the fragments that we have
10 marked in particular, the seven areas, the fact that
11 those are in the right-hand lane, do you attach any
12 significance to that as far as the point of the impact
13 is concerned or not?
14 A. No, I do not, and I will go on to give you my reasons if
15 I may.
16 Q. Please.
17 A. Firstly the debris in fact extends all the way across
18 the carriageway, all the way from the left-hand gutter
19 here (indicating) with these items, all the way across
20 to the right-hand gutter, almost, with that particular
21 item there. It would be a very brave person that said
22 that they could tell where vehicles had been on
23 the carriageway by looking at such a spread across
24 the entire width of the carriageway.
25 Secondly, one expects that in a glancing collision
1 such as this -- we know it has been a glancing
2 collision, which we will come on to in a while -- but we
3 know it has been a glancing collision as -- if I can use
4 some larger models, as the Mercedes has come past
5 the Fiat at a grazing angle, it has struck it a glancing
6 blow at the back end, and we all know that if you strike
7 something at a glancing blow, it projects it off to one
9 If you take a simple example, if you think of the
10 rugby player, Johnny Wilkinson, if he kicks a rugby
11 ball, but instead of kicking it squarely, he catches it
12 a glancing blow with the edge of his boot, then of
13 course it will go off to one side. It is not high level
14 physics. It is just something pretty obvious that if
15 you hit something with a glancing blow, you project it
16 away to one side at least to some extent. You may
17 project it in a forward direction as well, but you will
18 also project it off to one side.
19 So even if we did not have these two items and all
20 you had was the ones in the right-hand lane, even so one
21 could not say that that had been where the collision
22 occurred. It would just be wholly unsafe and
24 MR HILLIARD: Thank you.
25 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: We will have a break now, members
1 of the jury.
2 (11.20 am)
3 (A short break)
4 (11.34 am)
5 (Jury present)
6 MR HILLIARD: Yes. Dr Searle, I wanted you to help us --
7 you have dealt with it in passing at least -- but what,
8 in your view, was the nature or the angle of the impact
9 between the Fiat and the Mercedes. I am sure you are
10 ahead of me, but it is dealt with in your paragraph 13
11 of your report, if that helps you to get your bearings.
12 A. Thank you very much. In my opinion -- and this is
13 something that was agreed with the other experts --
14 the two vehicles have been on closely parallel paths
15 when they met. That means, if I can use these rather
16 larger models, that as the Fiat has been travelling in
17 that direction, the Mercedes has been on a closely
18 parallel path with an overlap of about 17 centimetres --
19 or 7 inches, if you prefer to think in those terms -- an
20 overlap of about 17 centimetres and come up
21 the left-hand side of the Fiat.
22 So it has passed the Fiat on the left-hand side and
23 it is, of course, the right-hand side of the Mercedes
24 that has been involved, so that is nature of
25 the contact. 17 centimetres is enough to involve some
1 damage to the wing of the Mercedes as they make contact.
2 Q. Then the single tyre mark -- and I am looking at your
3 paragraph 14 and, in particular, your paragraph 14.6 --
4 can you just help us as to what the relationship is
5 between the single tyre mark and the contact between
6 the two vehicles? Do you understand what I am getting
8 A. Yes, I do. As we were saying before the break, it would
9 appear that the contact has occurred when the Mercedes
10 was at or near the beginning of the single tyre mark and
11 on its own side of the -- or on its left side of
12 carriageway with the Fiat coming across. That raises
13 the possibility that there are two possible ways in
14 which this curved mark can have been created.
15 One is that it is what is called a "subcritical
16 mark"; that is it is a simple swerve, rather like
17 the double one that occurred later, very shortly
18 afterwards, and it was made on a radius sufficiently
19 open that it did not make the tyres leave critical speed
20 marks, it was too open for that, but nevertheless they
21 did leave some rubber on the road.
22 Q. Tell us what does a critical speed mark look like on the
24 A. A critical speed mark is a curved mark, like the double
25 ones that we saw there, curved in that fashion, and
1 transversally across the mark run short stripes, rather
2 like a barcode, if you can imagine that, short
3 transverse stripes across the mark, and the short
4 transverse stripes are made by the slippage of
5 the wheel. As it slips like that, it is drawing --
6 the tread blocks are drawing little transverse lines
7 across. So that is a critical speed mark.
8 Before a car is cornered in a tight radius like that
9 to leave a critical speed mark, on a more open radius it
10 will leave what is sometimes called a "subcritical speed
11 mark", more open and normally without those transverse
12 barcode type markings. So that is one way in which this
13 could occur. It is simply a subcritical speed mark on
14 a fairly open radius.
15 Q. So just help us. Ordinarily, when we drive around, we
16 are not leaving subcritical marks, so can you explain?
17 You say that is one way it could be -- if it is
18 a subcritical mark, just explain, how do you leave
19 rubber on the road in a subcritical way?
20 A. You need to be getting up towards leaving critical speed
21 marks but not quite there yet. So the radius of this is
22 perhaps 90-odd metres and the radius of this is perhaps
23 130. So it is possible that, on this radius, it was not
24 a critical speed mark but a subcritical speed mark.
25 It was cornering very hard but not quite hard enough to
1 leave a critical speed mark.
2 Q. So is that one way that could have been left?
3 A. That is one way. But another way is that when the
4 Mercedes makes contact here, near the beginning, it
5 knocks the front of the Mercedes rather out of line, it
6 pushes it over to one side, and before -- because
7 the Mercedes then is travelling in a slightly crab-wise
8 fashion, if I can call it that, slightly to an angle to
9 its natural direction of travel, that could cause a mark
10 to be left upon the road until that situation is
11 righted. So that is another way in which that mark can
12 have been made.
13 Q. Now would you expect there to be, as it were, any
14 variation in the mark -- a kink, for example, in
15 the tyre mark -- if that second mechanism was
16 responsible, so as to reflect, as it were, the initial
17 impact and pressure being applied and then it coming
18 off? Do you follow the question I am asking?
19 A. I do.
20 Q. Would you expect there to be anything in the tyre mark
21 so you could see that there has been an impact here,
22 pressure against the vehicle and then it has come off?
23 Would you expect to see anything in the mark?
24 A. Not necessarily. The reason is that we know from our
25 arithmetic going back from the debris that was left and
1 going back a throw distance that it looks likely that
2 the impact occurred somewhere in this region
3 (indicating) near the start. If, in fact, somewhere
4 back here the front of the Mercedes has been knocked out
5 of line by a glancing collision on the Fiat, that occurs
6 before that mark starts to the left and then that mark
7 follows, but you don't see a kink halfway along the mark
8 because the impact has occurred before, just before that
9 mark. It was the cause of that mark. But as I say,
10 there are two explanations and one can really choose
12 Q. Thank you. Then, please, your paragraph 15. You have
13 a section which is entitled "Actions of Fiat driver".
14 Can you just summarise the effect of that for us? If
15 it is easier for you to read most it, do. Whichever is
16 best for you.
17 A. Well, the first point to note is that I think that
18 nobody now is suggesting that the Fiat was simply
19 trundling along in the middle of its right-hand lane
20 because even if you go back 10 metres, you still get
21 a Fiat position out on the lane-dividing line, even if
22 you go back 10 metres.
23 Now what I believe happened is that the Fiat came
24 across the lane-dividing line and somewhere here there
25 was a side-to-side contact between the Mercedes and
1 the Fiat. And because you have the Fiat in a position
2 straddling the lane-dividing line and the Mercedes
3 travelling along, you get side to side, that is the
4 vehicles on closely parallel paths, as we were saying.
5 So that is the first point.
6 In my opinion, the Fiat has been over
7 the lane-dividing line. Now there are three possible
8 explanations of why the Fiat driver might have got to
9 such a position. One is that he never intended to; he
10 was coming along here and inadvertently he just happened
11 to meander over the lane-dividing line for no reason
12 except that he was not looking where he was going, he
13 was reaching down to tune the radio, he was doing
14 whatever, simply inadvertent meander.
15 The next one is that the Fiat was attempting to
16 overtake something, in other words, it pulled out to
17 here because some other vehicle was here and the Fiat
18 driver was starting to pull out to overtake whatever
19 it was. He did not look, of course, because if he had
20 looked, he would have seen that there was a large black
21 Mercedes coming up behind him. He did not look and he
22 pulled out and a collision occurred.
23 Now, that one seems less likely because if there had
24 been a vehicle ahead of the Fiat, in the same lane, and
25 then the Fiat pulls out, if there had been a vehicle
1 ahead there, firstly, it would have probably been
2 involved in the collision when the Mercedes swerves back
3 in and then slews across the carriageway. Any vehicle
4 ahead of the Fiat -- we have been saying that the Fiat
5 could stop at perhaps a speed up to 40, but the vehicle
6 ahead of the Fiat would have almost certainly become
7 entangled in what was going on. So a simple pulling out
8 to overtake and not looking in your rear-view mirror
9 does not look the most likely of reasons.
10 Q. Presumably, just pausing there, given the sort of speeds
11 that you are talking about for Fiat travelling, again an
12 overtaking manoeuvre seems unlikely. Is that fair to
14 A. I think that is fair to say, unless there was somebody
15 even slower, but I take your point absolutely. We are
16 only talking about very slow speeds -- well, slow speeds
17 for the Fiat, 30; possibly, from the fragment field,
18 even slower.
19 Q. So those are two possibilities. And then a third?
20 A. The third is that the Fiat moved over deliberately; in
21 other words, it deliberately moved over here and the
22 collision occurred, and the movement of the Fiat over
23 was deliberate, but that does not mean that the
24 collision was deliberate. The Fiat may have moved over
25 deliberately, for example, to block the Mercedes and
1 stop the Mercedes going through and getting away, to
2 hold up the Mercedes. It may have been an intention to
3 move over and block it without intending to have
4 a collision or, of course, the other version of that is
5 that the Fiat moved over with the intention of causing
6 a collision.
7 So those are the options and they are not ones on
8 which collision reconstruction can assist, except, as
9 I say, to say that there does not seem to have been
10 another vehicle ahead of the Fiat for it to pull out to
12 Q. Then you have a corresponding section on the actions of
13 the Mercedes driver. Just to help you, that really goes
14 from your 16.1 to 16.8. After that, you deal with
15 the question of alcohol which I am going to come to
17 A. Okay.
18 Q. Can you just summarise that for us in the same way you
19 have done the actions of Fiat driver? Can you just do
20 a similar exercise, in your view, for the actions of the
21 Mercedes driver?
22 A. Yes. I will change cars to my little black one.
23 The Mercedes driver has left this mark and, therefore,
24 whilst that mark was being left, he has been in the
25 left-hand lane. The further you go back from that,
1 the less certain it is where the Mercedes has been.
2 Obviously, to take an extreme, if you went 100 or
3 200 metres back, you would have no real idea from
4 reconstruction where it might have been. But if one
5 only goes a short distance back, then it has still
6 plainly been in its left-hand lane.
7 Now it can have approached, therefore -- when you
8 consider a fairly long way back, it can have approached
9 in the left-hand lane here, and then, seeing the Fiat
10 coming over, made that swerve, trying to go through
11 the diminishing gap; or it can have approached from
12 the right-hand lane, pulled out to pass a slower-moving
13 vehicle, as one does, and as the pulling out to pass is
14 made, so the Fiat comes over the lane-dividing line and
15 the Mercedes driver is left with no option but to try to
16 swerve through what remains of his carriageway.
17 So those are the two possibilities. It was
18 suggested -- I know it has been suggested -- that
19 the Mercedes may come down this lane, seen the --
20 Mr Henri Paul has seen the Fiat ahead of him and served
21 out to miss the Fiat.
22 I indicated earlier that because of the distance it
23 requires for the Mercedes to get from one side of
24 the road to the other, because of that long distance, it
25 requires a huge throw distance, unlike anything that
1 we saw in our tests, a throw distance of 25 metres or
2 more. So that is not a likely action by the driver.
3 Then again, if this car came out like that at an
4 angle, swerving past the Fiat ahead, then the two
5 vehicles would not be on closely parallel paths when
6 they met; the Mercedes would be pointing at a leftwards
7 angle, a noticeable leftwards angle compared with
8 the Fiat.
9 Then, lastly, with any of these suggestions of
10 the Mercedes having swerved vigorously across, where is
11 the tyre mark for it? There just is not one. There is
12 a tyre mark of an open curvature, which is a subcritical
13 tyre mark, perhaps, from a swerve to the right, but
14 there is nothing to suggest a swerve to the left. One
15 would have to hypothesise and say, well, just possibly
16 this swerve has not left a mark on the road, but it is
17 certainly odd if one is going to put forward any theory
18 of an initial heavy left swerve that there is nothing on
19 the road to show for it.
20 So my explanation of the actions of the Mercedes
21 driver is that either he approached always in the
22 left-hand lane or he approached in the right-hand lane
23 and made an ordinary movement to pass, and that when he
24 got close to the Fiat, it moved outwards enough to cause
25 a glancing contact down the left-hand side of Fiat.
1 Q. So whether deliberate or not and, as you say,
2 reconstruction cannot help on that --
3 A. No.
4 Q. -- it is the Mercedes going certainly, at least in your
5 view, twice the speed of the Fiat?
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. And then -- whether deliberate or not, you cannot
8 help -- but just coming up to it there is then this
9 sliding contact between the two vehicles?
10 A. Yes.
11 Q. And that, as it were -- everything between them beyond
12 the damage that there must have been to the light
13 cluster of the Fiat --
14 A. Yes.
15 Q. -- as it were, nothing worse than that that we are aware
17 A. On the Fiat?
18 Q. I mean in terms of secondary impacts or anything of that
19 sort, you were saying it does not appear to have, as it
20 were, had to break sharply; it has not crashed, there
21 has not been a secondary impact into the Fiat or
22 anything of that sort?
23 A. That is right, but it is only reasonable to assume that
24 the Fiat sustained bodywork damage as well as damage to
25 the light cluster. The extent of overlap between
1 the vehicles was enough to guarantee that.
2 Q. Right. Thank you, Doctor.
3 Then, as I indicated, there is a section in your
4 report which deals with the effect of alcohol. It is
5 16.9 onwards --
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. Presumably the first point to make is this, isn't it?
8 We are all familiar with the effects of alcohol, that it
9 can and does have, whether we are in a car or not.
10 A. That is right.
11 Q. So factors such as its effect on judgment, mood,
12 attitude to risk, those are all commonplace, aren't
13 they, as far as alcohol is concerned, whether one is
14 behind the wheel or not? We all know that from our own
16 A. That is right and I wholly accept that.
17 Q. It might be said, might it not, that the fact that it
18 does affect judgment and mood and attitude to risk is
19 evidenced simply by the fact that somebody who has been
20 drinking is driving at all?
21 A. Perhaps, but --
22 Q. It must be --
23 A. That argument is a little bit circular because it does
24 assume that there is an effect.
25 Q. But you are accepting that there is, as I understood it.
1 A. I am accepting that there is and that is it. I have
2 accepted that of course alcohol makes people not drive
3 as well and it increases their accident risk, and
4 although it is not really an expert's role, I would like
5 to add that I regard it as very reprehensible to drive
6 when over the limit.
7 Q. Is this right, I think it is also accepted that the
8 consumption of alcohol affects reaction times. Do you
9 remember Mr Read told us that -- I think he said you
10 have a thinking time of one to one and a half seconds
11 for an ordinary alert driver and he said that would be
12 increased for a driver who was under the influence of
13 alcohol. I think you were in court when you said that.
14 I do not think it was disputed.
15 A. Yes, but I did not need to listen to Mr Read to know
16 that. I know it anyway.
17 Q. So that is generally accepted as well?
18 A. I do accept, yes, that is right.
19 Q. You have also, I think, just said that you accept that
20 alcohol increases the risk of an accident.
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. Presumably something turns, does it, on the nature of
23 the road and the conditions that are being driven in?
24 So, suppose, for example, somebody has been drinking but
25 they are driving on a wide straight empty road in
1 daylight at a very slow speed, if you contrast that with
2 somebody who has been drinking the same amount but is
3 driving at night, at 60 miles per hour, at a dangerous
4 location where there is other traffic, plainly,
5 presumably, the risk is obviously greater in the second
6 situation than in the first?
7 A. Yes, it is, although I would expect the multiplier to be
8 much the same in that if one has a certain increase in
9 risk in the one situation, the easy situation, then
10 there is a similar increase in risk in the more
11 difficult situation.
12 Q. Is this right -- I am looking at your paragraph 18.4 --
13 the problem is presumably -- in other words, it is not
14 only the particular driver who is affected by drink, but
15 as always in traffic matters, there is the behaviour of
16 other drivers that becomes a factor. Is that right?
17 A. Of course. The roads would be very easy if we were
18 the only ones on it.
19 Q. Of course. As I think you have said, hazards often
20 arise from mistakes that other drivers may make in
21 coming out of the sliproad inappropriately, not
22 maintaining lane discipline, and you say that drivers on
23 the dual carriageway see only that there is no reason
24 why they themselves make any mistake and they maintain
25 a fast speed, but, as you say, wait and see what
1 the other person does.
2 A. That is right. There is other people and what other
3 people may do because other people may make mistakes or
4 I know, perhaps, deliberate actions. Who knows? That
5 is for the court to decide.
6 Q. Yes.
7 A. But there is the actions of other drivers.
8 Q. Finally, Doctor, we heard about this from Mr Read, but
9 it is your view so we will hear it from you. I think
10 it was your view that in this collision, at the speed
11 that it happened and in the circumstances that it
12 happened, that if the Princess of Wales and Mr Al Fayed
13 had been wearing seatbelts, it is your view that it is
14 unlikely that they would have sustained fatal injuries?
15 A. That is my view and, as I understand it, Mr Jennings now
16 takes a similar view. Mr Jennings has researched this
17 further since we agreed a joint statement. I believe
18 that we now share that view, that the lack of seatbelts
19 was a significant factor in the causes of the
21 MR HILLIARD: Thank you very much, Doctor.
22 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Thank you.
23 Mr Mansfield?
24 MR MANSFIELD: No thank you, sir.
25 MR KEEN: No thank you, sir.
1 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Mr Croxford?
2 MR CROXFORD: A few things if I may, sir, to clarify if
3 I have understood correctly Dr Searle.
4 Questions from MR CROXFORD
5 MR CROXFORD: Your own initial assumption when looking at
6 reconstruction was to assume that the French had
7 collected or noted the whereabouts of the relevant
8 debris from any collision between the Mercedes and
9 the Fiat; is that right?
10 A. That is right. They said they did and that is an
11 obvious starting point.
12 Q. In addition to that -- and I think Mr Hilliard has asked
13 you by reference to paragraph 12.1 of your report -- did
14 you also initially consider three alternatives as to
15 reconstruction; two of which involve the French police
16 either only logging initial fragments or only noting
17 larger and more obvious concentrations?
18 A. That is right.
19 Q. The third of your alternatives was the Fiat was
20 travelling really very slow indeed, perhaps at about
21 only 30 kilometres per hour?
22 A. Yes, say 20 miles per hour.
23 Q. In summary, was your conclusion in reconstruction that
24 if the Fiat had been travelling so very slowly at
25 perhaps only 20 miles per hour, the point of contact
1 would have been well along the single tyre mark?
2 A. Yes, that is right, because with such a slow speed,
3 the onward throw distance of the fragments is small and
4 therefore you get a point of impact in this area just
5 partway along the single tyre mark.
6 Q. Next, if only the initial fragments had been noted, did
7 you conclude that the point of contact would have been
8 some 5 or 7 metres before the first fragment, that is
9 a little way after the start of the single tyre mark?
10 A. That is right, 5 metres if the speed of the -- that is
11 5 metres back from here, so it is about down here
12 somewhere (indicates); 5 metres if one is considering
13 a Fiat speed of 30 miles per hour and 7 metres if you
14 consider a Fiat speed of 43 miles per hour. Those were
15 our two test speeds that we did all of our tests at.
16 Q. Lastly, if the police had only noted the larger, more
17 obvious concentrations, again, considering the
18 alternatives of the Fiat's speed, did you conclude that
19 on a reconstruction basis the location of the collision
20 would have been at about the start of the single
21 tyre mark?
22 A. That is right. If you call this group of fragments
23 here -- well, you can include those two because they are
24 at the same longitudinal distance along the road. So if
25 you say that was the concentration of fragments and,
1 from the middle of that, you go back 12 metres, which as
2 we said, was about a hand span, then you get to
3 somewhere in that region, about the start of a single
4 tyre mark.
5 So whichever way you look at it, you get a point of
6 impact in the region of the single tyre mark, where it
8 Q. Then, subsequently and in addition, did you consider
9 a theory advanced by Mr Read and Mr Jennings that
10 the material which one could see on that photograph 4
11 [INQ0001576] was first of all debris from a collision,
12 then debris from a collision between the Mercedes and
13 the Fiat, and that there was further debris which could
14 not be seen on the photograph because it was too small?
15 A. Yes, I did consider that.
16 Q. How would you describe that idea?
17 A. Well, it is a speculative idea. There is no real
18 evidence for it. The French would certainly reject it.
19 If we could have back the plan 6 [INQ-PLAN-0007] on
20 here, if there were indeed a further item here
21 (indicating) there, 7 metres further back and just
22 inside the underpass there, all the same, if you take
23 that as an entire group and you say, "Well, say all of
24 that was the concentration", so we would go from
25 the middle of it and then we go back 12 metres, you are
1 only just outside the underpass then. So you would
2 still always end up with a point of impact in this
3 general region and the Mercedes either just after or
4 just before the start of that single tyre mark and
5 plainly, incontrovertibly, on its own side of the road
6 in its left-hand lane.
7 So that would be my comment on it. It is very
8 speculative, and even if one believed it, one would
9 still not establish a point of impact sufficiently far
10 back to allow the Mercedes to be outside its lane, let
11 alone show that it was. But if you go far enough back,
12 it allows the Mercedes to be outside its own lane,
13 assuming that the Mercedes has been cornering heavily
14 before it started leaving a mark. But the sort of
15 distances we are talking about are not enough to allow
16 that. The Mercedes has been in the left-hand lane and
17 the Fiat over the lane-dividing line.
18 Q. You and the other two experts set up this test for
19 breaking the rear light of the Fiat and measuring throw
20 distances. Is that right?
21 A. We did.
22 Q. I would like to ask you this: when you carried out that
23 test, did you find that the fragments tended to fall
24 some initially and then a concentration of fragments and
25 then a tail of a few fragments?
1 A. That is right. There was a hammer on a frame on top of
2 the Fiat. There was a hammer with a 1-metre handle
3 hanging on the end there. It was raised to a vertical
4 position and allowed to swing down and smash the
5 rear-light cluster and, when that happened, of course
6 the Fiat is going along the road at the time at 30 miles
7 per hour, so the particles that have been released end
8 up further along than where that impact took place.
9 The question is how much, and we measured it, but they
10 start at about 4 to 6 metres and then you get
11 a concentration at about 12 metres and then a rather
12 long tail as odd bits continue to drop off.
13 Q. Now, in your experience of reconstruction over your
14 career, were you surprised to find that there was
15 a concentration of debris of the sort that you did find?
16 A. No. That is a very commonplace observation and, what is
17 more, these are not the first fragment throw tests
18 I have ever done in my life.
19 Q. Then going back to the speculation of Mr Read and
20 Mr Jennings, did you form the conclusion that if the
21 material shown on this photograph number 4 was
22 the debris of the type which they contended for, then
23 its location would be inconsistent with your expectation
24 as to the location of the concentration of fragment from
25 such a collision?
1 A. Yes. It would mean that there was a rather unusual
2 fragment pattern in that what they are supposing is one
3 large fragment here and then a gap and then some more,
4 but quite a gap there, with nothing in it.
5 So one cannot say it is impossible, particularly
6 here when there appear to be only seven original
7 fragments before they were overrun, eight if you count
8 the uncertain group, a relatively small number of large
9 fragments in this case. So it is not impossible to get
10 a gap, but it would be an odd feature.
11 Q. Now, let me ask you about something else: the single
12 tyre mark. I think you and the other experts agreed
13 that if that was a critical tyre mark -- and you have
14 explained the meaning of that to the jury this
15 morning -- with no other forces acting on the Mercedes,
16 then the curvature of the mark would suggest a speed of
17 about 80 miles per hour.
18 A. Yes, and yet we know that the car cannot have been doing
19 80 miles per hour here (indicating) because here it has
20 been doing 63, and they are so near to one another that
21 it is just impossible that this could be a simple
22 critical speed mark. They are too near.
23 Q. This coming together between the Fiat and the Mercedes,
24 that would exert a sideways force, would it, on the
1 A. It would indeed. In fact recently, as recently as
2 during the course of these inquests, I conducted
3 a simple test of running a car into the back of
4 the Fiat Uno with an overlap of 17 centimetres, on
5 closely parallel paths, not at 30 or 35 miles per hour,
6 which is the actual relative speed, but with the
7 Fiat Uno stationary and this one coming in at about 6 or
8 8 miles per hour. I simply parked the Uno, pulled this
9 one back away on a straight line and then went forward
10 to create an impact with that degree of overlap.
11 What we found, as you might well imagine, is that
12 the two vehicles bounced apart from one another.
13 The car we were using was not a Mercedes, it was
14 a Rover 820, still a fairly substantial car, but it
15 bounced away to one side and the driver could feel
16 the pull towards it being deflected to the left, whereas
17 the Fiat was deflected to the right. Since I had marked
18 on the ground where its wheel was before the event,
19 we could see that it had been shunted to one side, even
20 at that relative speed. Doing that test also gave an
21 insight into whether the Fiat driver would have been
22 aware of the event and I can assure you that he would.
23 Q. That being shunted to one side, would that have an
24 effect on the front wheel of the Mercedes?
25 A. Yes, because as the back of the Fiat is shunted to
1 the right, the effect is to shunt the front of the
2 Mercedes to the left. We know also that there was
3 a contact on the outside of the front right wheel
4 because there was a smear of black material on there
5 from the contact on the Uno, so that as well as the bulk
6 effect of just pushing the front of the car across,
7 we have actually got an impact on the steered wheel
8 itself, which again is likely to upset the direction in
9 which you intend to go if you are travelling down
10 the road.
11 Q. And with a vehicle that is otherwise travelling at
12 a speed which would not leave marks on the road, could
13 that sideways shunt be sufficient to induce that single
14 tyre mark?
15 A. Yes, I believe it could, that it unsettles the Mercedes
16 in making it point in not the direction in which it
17 should be travelling -- it is now pointing slightly
18 sideways -- and it gives rise to a mark. One of the odd
19 features of this mark is that it appears to come from
20 the front left wheel on the Mercedes, whereas
21 the natural critical speed marks are from the rear
22 wheels. So, again, that is a feature which needs
23 explanation and here I have given an explanation.
24 Q. The fact that one is a front left-hand wheel and
25 the other two marks are rear wheels, does that suggest
1 that the explanation for the cause of each of them is
3 A. Yes, and that these are simple critical speed marks.
4 Here, if I can just point it out, sir -- you will not be
5 able to see it from there, but there is -- perhaps if
6 I use the mouse -- there is a very small mark, it is
7 this mark here (indicates).
8 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Yes.
9 MR CROXFORD: A little freestanding mark almost at the end
10 of the left-hand double.
11 A. Yes. Now that is from the front left wheel of the
12 Mercedes, but the major marks are from the rear wheels,
13 and you can see the attitude in which the car went, with
14 the back end, so to speak, hanging out and the rear
15 wheels tracking outside the front wheels. That is these
16 marks here. When we look at the single tyre mark, it
17 appears to have come from the front left wheel of the
18 Mercedes and not to be from one of the rear wheels at
20 Q. Just three more things, if I may.
21 You gave some evidence in connection with the
22 actions of the Fiat driver and identified three possible
23 explanations why the Fiat driver was partly into
24 the left-hand lane. The first of those was an
25 inadvertent meander from his own lane. Do you remember
2 A. I do.
3 Q. And you gave a vivid description of fiddling with his
4 radio or something.
5 A. Whatever.
6 Q. It could be something from inside the car or something
7 happening outside the car which has distracted him?
8 A. It could. Some inadvertent meander which he had not
9 intended to make, but he did.
10 Q. Next I would like to ask you about this. Right at
11 the outset of giving your evidence, Mr Hilliard asked
12 you questions about lane-keeping and your observations
13 in respect of lane-keeping at the entranceway into
14 the Alma Tunnel. Do you remember that?
15 A. I do.
16 Q. I think you agreed that there was some indiscipline and
17 some poor lane discipline at that stage.
18 A. Yes.
19 Q. Was that what you saw, indiscipline of drivers in
20 the right-hand slow lane?
21 A. Correct. They generally straighten the bend, if you can
22 call it that, and that takes them over the lane-dividing
23 line, although I would say not as late as this incident
24 appears to have occurred.
25 Q. That was the next thing I was going to ask you. Where
1 they appear from the right-hand slow lane to have cut
2 the bend and drifted across the centre line, did they
3 then get back into their own lane well before reaching
4 the bottom of the slope?
5 A. Not really well before, but before. It is only a short
6 distance, in any event, but it did seem to me that
7 the lack of lane-keeping was rather earlier on the
8 carriageway than this incident has occurred. I was
9 giving the answer about the lane-keeping in the context
10 of highway safety and why it is likely that this is an
11 inherently dangerous site, sir.
12 Q. Your observations when you were there at least: vehicles
13 which were travelling in the left-hand fast lane came
14 through keeping well into their side of the lane?
15 A. Yes, in general, although of course there is a natural
16 variation of drivers within their own traffic lane, as
17 we all do. We are not automatons that keep within
18 a centimetre of the centre of it at all times, I know
19 that, but in general, if there was any tendency at all,
20 it was at the bend -- and as I have said, that is
21 a little way before this incident occurred -- they
22 tended to be well within their own lane and, if
23 anything, to the left-hand side of it, again
24 straightening the bend.
25 Q. Lastly if I may, Doctor. I think your conclusion was
1 this, was it not? The road itself, coming along the
2 expressway, making the curve down into the Alma Tunnel
3 and driving through the tunnel, could be driven without
4 difficulty at a speed of 65 miles per hour?
5 A. Or indeed faster.
6 Q. But you were troubled, is this right, I think
7 principally troubled from a safety viewpoint, from what
8 were unguarded pillars in the middle of the two
9 carriageways on the dividing line?
10 A. That is correct. That was my principal concern, that
11 there were unguarded pillars at a location where,
12 firstly, speeds are high and, secondly, there is
13 a possibility of traffic conflicts.
14 Q. Put simply, you would have expected these pillars to
15 have been filled in with a barrier of some sort,
16 a central reservation, a metal crash barrier or even
17 a concrete crash barrier?
18 A. Yes. I would have thought, given the space available,
19 that a concrete crash barrier would have been the
20 obvious choice and a very good choice, a very sensible
21 choice, a very suitable choice.
22 Q. I want to understand finally, if I may, on this. This
23 is because if one hits in a motor car head-on into
24 a central pillar, much like crossing over on to the
25 other carriageway, I suppose, and hitting head-on into
1 an oncoming vehicle, in either case there is an enormous
2 impact and an enormous effect upon people travelling in
3 the car which hits the pillar or hits an oncoming
4 vehicle; is that right?
5 A. Exactly so. If the Mercedes is travelling at 64 miles
6 per hour, which is the speed put on it, and it goes
7 head-on into a pillar, then the Mercedes is brought
8 virtually to a stop almost instantaneously so that
9 the forces imposed on those that are in the Mercedes are
11 If, on the other hand, we had a wall of that sort
12 and the Mercedes goes in at an angle like that, it is
13 not stopped, it is merely redirected to go along
14 the carriageway, it goes in at 64 miles per hour, it is
15 redirected, but it is still travelling at perhaps 60, so
16 there has only been something like a 4 miles per hour,
17 perhaps 10 miles per hour at most, speed change, and
18 the people inside are uninjured. Particularly if they
19 were wearing seatbelts, they would have been completely
21 MR CROXFORD: Tempting though it is, I am not going to ask
22 you about that. Thank you, Doctor.
23 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: These pillars, Dr Searle, none of
24 the road traffic experts like them, do they?
25 A. No.
1 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: But the relevance of the pillars
2 is this, is it not? If there is a collision/accident,
3 the consequences are likely to be very much more serious
4 than if there were some other form of safety barrier
6 A. Yes, exactly so.
7 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: They do not have any relevance to
8 the actual cause of the collision itself. They only
9 come into play, as it were, when there has been
10 a collision?
11 A. Yes.
12 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: People can travel down that road
13 perfectly safely day after day and week after week.
14 A. Yes. You are inviting me really to trespass outside my
15 true field.
16 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: I am asking you from
17 the viewpoint of a road traffic engineer.
18 A. Yes. I would say that they only have a marginal role to
19 play in the causation, but if one were to be setting up
20 something deliberate --
21 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Well, that is a different matter.
22 A. -- it would be a place to choose, obviously, if one
23 were. But I am not for a moment suggesting that I could
24 say one way or the other.
25 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: In the event that there
1 were something similar in England or any part of
2 Great Britain, you would expect, would you, that steps
3 would be taken in 2007 to remedy it pretty quickly?
4 A. Indeed. In 2007, I would have expected steps to be
5 taken in 1980.
6 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Yes.
7 Now, one other matter: the issue about the possible
8 point of impact, as I understand it, is between either
9 it was at the very beginning of the tunnel, that is at
10 the beginning of the single mark --
11 A. Yes.
12 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: -- or some few metres outside it.
13 A. Correct.
14 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Can we just focus for a moment on
15 the relevance of where the point of impact was? Does it
16 really come to anything more than this, that the further
17 towards the entrance to the tunnel that the impact took
18 place, the further it puts the Fiat and consequently
19 the Mercedes over to the left of the two lanes, and
20 the further the Fiat was over to its left, the more
21 "blame" can be attached to the Fiat. Is that really
22 what it comes to?
23 A. It does, sir, except that I would say that no matter how
24 far back the collision may have occurred, it is still
25 possible that the Fiat was over the lane-dividing line.
1 The position, as you have explained it, is that if you
2 only go a little way back, then the Fiat must have been
3 over the lane --
4 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: I think we have your evidence
5 about that.
6 A. If you go a long way back, the Fiat may or may not have
7 been over the lane-dividing line, you just don't know,
8 because you have got sufficiently far away from
9 the physical evidence not to really know what the
10 position was.
11 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: I think that is where there is an
12 area of dispute between the experts, to some extent
15 Questions from MR HORWELL
16 MR HORWELL: We have been over this many times before,
17 Dr Searle, so I am going to try to keep my questions
18 relatively brief.
19 I think you set out at the beginning of your report
20 that Mr Read and Mr Jennings had been most helpful and
21 that it had been a pleasure to work with them.
22 A. I have known them for many years. I know and like them
23 and it has been a pleasure to work with them on this
25 Q. Right. I am sure you would agree, as did they, that you
1 are here to give your opinions as best you can and
2 neither you nor they can be certain as to what happened
3 that night.
4 A. That is right. One can only be logical.
5 Q. Can I start with the unmarked debris? We have seen this
6 so many times from photograph 4 [INQ0001576] of
7 the collection. It seems that it is in relatively the
8 same position as some of the areas of chalked debris --
9 A. That is true.
10 Q. -- in terms of its position to the right of the line?
11 A. Lateral position.
12 Q. It seems --
13 A. Do not forget there are also two other items not ringed
14 over on the left, but that is the mirror and the
16 Q. The items that are marked on the plan?
17 A. They are on the plan, but they have not been ringed
18 here. If you saw them ringed there, then you would get
19 a better appreciation of the spread of the debris.
20 Q. It seems from what we can gather from what Major Mules
21 has said that it has been accepted that it is in fact
22 debris, this material.
23 A. Well, I will confirm that I heard the evidence, but
24 obviously I have no direct knowledge.
25 Q. Of course not. It also seems that there is no
1 contemporaneous note or documentation which suggests
2 that on 31st August it was then identified as old
3 debris; 31st August 1997.
4 A. No, but as I have said, it would be commonplace in
5 a less important accident for that to occur.
6 Q. Because, as I think we will hear, the first occasion on
7 which that was identified as old debris by Major Mules
8 was in July 2006.
9 A. You have the advantage on me of knowing the dates.
10 Q. So a significant time after this event.
11 Also, Dr Searle, you no doubt accept that a visual
12 inspection under artificial lighting at night-time is no
13 substitute for a thorough scientific examination?
14 A. I have already said, in agreement with that, that in an
15 important case like this, it should have been collected
16 for scientific examination to make doubly sure.
17 Q. Indeed, and thank you for that.
18 There is also, no doubt, Dr Searle, that the French
19 expert who examined the evidence at the scene did in
20 fact make some fundamental errors.
21 A. Who do you have in mind?
22 Q. Nibodeau.
23 The two fundamental errors -- I do not want to take
24 too long on this -- but first of all the French
25 investigators reached the surprising conclusion that
1 the pair of curved tyre marks had not come from
2 the Mercedes.
3 A. I know that they reached that conclusion.
4 Q. That is a very surprising conclusion for them to have
5 reached. Would you not agree?
6 A. It certainly does not agree with what I think or with
7 what the other British experts think. I think the
8 French are mistaken, but no doubt they would think that
9 I was mistaken. So we can leave it at that.
10 Q. It is just that that is the word you use in your report,
11 Dr Searle. I will read it out.
12 "The French investigators reached the surprising
13 conclusion that the pair of curved marks leading to
14 the kerb strike and the impact point on the 13th pillar
15 had not come from the Mercedes."
16 A. That is right. As I have just added to it, I think they
17 are wrong and possibly they think I am wrong.
18 Q. It seems that the French also made the assumption that
19 the collision occurred at the site of the chalked
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. I know that there has been reference to this before --
23 I will take it quickly -- but the area of the chalked
24 debris is identified on the French plan as "zone de
25 collision probable".
1 A. That is right.
2 Q. That is the area of the chalked debris that we can see
3 in photograph number 4 [INQ0001576].
4 A. Yes. Could we have plan 6 up [INQ-PLAN-0007]? Thank
6 On the French plan, this is ringed around. On their
7 plan they have drawn an ellipse around all of that and
8 then they write, in French, "probable zone of
9 collision". Now they do not allow for any longitudinal
10 throw along the road and nor do they allow for any
11 lateral projection across the road. They just imagine
12 that that is the zone of collision and British experts
13 do not agree.
14 Q. That assumption obviously may have led the French to
15 concentrate on that particular area of the road,
16 obviously, if that is where they believed the collision
18 A. No, it is the other way round, I think. They think that
19 is where the collision occurred because that is where
20 the bits were.
21 Q. Yes, and that led them to concentrate on that particular
22 area of the road?
23 A. No, that does not follow. They find the bits and then
24 they say, "That is where the collision occurred". It is
25 not the other way round of deciding that that is where
1 the collision occurred and then not looking anywhere
2 else for any fragments.
3 Q. Yes, but Dr Searle, they no doubt then concentrated on
4 that part of the road. They believed that to be the
5 relevant part, did they not?
6 A. I think that they drew their ellipse around that at some
7 later date when they had collected all the fragments and
8 plotted them on a plan and then they put an ellipse
9 round it and said "probable zone of collision". I think
10 they were wrong to do that because it ignores
11 the projection of the fragments in both ways; that is
12 along the road and across the road.
13 Q. I think you state in your report, do you not, that
14 because of the French identification of this as being
15 the probable collision zone, you state -- and it is
16 page 14, 12.1, Dr Searle --
17 A. Yes.
18 Q. -- "... there are several possible explanations why
19 the French police recorded only a relative short
20 fragment field."
21 One of the reasons that you state is that the French
22 police logged only the initial fragments which they
23 annotated as "zone de collision probable", ignoring
24 the later ones as not being of interest.
25 A. Yes, but as I have said, you have to put the horse
1 before the cart. You have to say that they found the
2 initial fragments and then put their ellipse around it
3 and called that the collision zone, rather than
4 imagining that some point was the collision zone and
5 then looking only there to find fragments, which would
6 not make any sense at all.
7 Q. It does mean that there must have come a stage when they
8 concentrated on that particular area of the road,
9 Dr Searle. That must be right, must it not?
10 A. There may have come a stage where they could see further
11 fragments further down the road but did not bother with
12 them, having already done a piece of -- the initial
13 fragments, they can then see that there is some more
14 down there, but they do not think that is of interest
15 because, in their minds, the collision has occurred
16 where the initial fragments are found.
17 Q. Thank you. So it was obviously right, in your view, for
18 Mr Read to approach the evidence that was found at the
19 scene completely afresh?
20 A. Well, I do not know about that. You have to listen to
21 what the people who found it said.
22 Q. Of course, you do, Dr Searle, but --
23 A. I do not know quite what you mean.
24 Q. -- it was right for Mr Read to approach this completely
25 afresh, was it not?
1 A. One has to consider the evidence, but there is no such
2 thing as "completely afresh". You are reliant upon what
3 the French say they found, upon the plans that they
4 drew, the measurements they took. You cannot go back to
5 the Alma Underpass and do it again.
6 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Delete "completely afresh" and
7 replace with "open mind". Would you agree with that?
8 A. Yes, I would. That is perhaps a different thing.
9 MR HORWELL: Thank you. I will move on.
10 The speeds of the vehicles -- and we have heard this
11 already in some detail this morning -- it amounts to
12 this: that in the course of this relatively short
13 test -- we all understand that, Dr Searle, it is not
14 suggested by you or anyone else that this was a test
15 that was conducted over a long period of time -- but in
16 the course of the tests that you conducted on this
17 section of road, 3 per cent only of the vehicles tested
18 travelled at a speed greater than 90 kilometres per
20 A. I have not worked it out as a percentage, but it is
21 about that; it is 6 in 60 something.
22 Q. 6 in 62.
23 A. That is right. But that, of course, means that you
24 don't have to stand there very long because vehicles are
25 coming through at a fair rate, a fair number per minute,
1 and you do not have to stay there very long to see
2 high-speed vehicles.
3 Q. I can only ask you about the test that you conducted,
4 Dr Searle, and that was it?
5 A. Yes. I would point out, though, that that amounts to
6 seeing such vehicles not infrequently.
7 Q. The single tyre mark: in your report, you indicate that
8 the Fiat -- and this is at page 17 -- exerted
9 a significant sideways force on the Mercedes.
10 A. Yes, I believe it did.
11 Q. The photographs that we have of the Mercedes do not
12 indicate that a significant sideways force was exerted
13 upon it, do they?
14 A. I am not very sure how you feel you can estimate
15 the force from looking at the photographs.
16 What I see is that there has been a 17-centimetre
17 overlap, and that what that will mean is the force must
18 be sufficient to push those vehicles apart by that
19 amount -- it must be -- or else they would continue with
20 a 17-centimetre overlap all the way down and you would
21 have caused very large amounts of damage all the way
23 I would also say that the front right wheel of the
24 Mercedes had black smears of rubber or a similar
25 compound on them, again showing a very forceful contact
1 with something. In my opinion, there has been
2 significant force exerted on the Mercedes.
3 Q. If the impact had occurred during the course of the
4 single tyre mark, might you have expected a kink or
5 deviation in the mark?
6 A. I am repeating really an answer that I gave earlier to
7 that same point, which is that if the contact occurs
8 just as this mark is about to be made, just before it,
9 then the Mercedes is not a little out of line, if I can
10 exaggerate it, it is out of line in that direction
11 (indicates) and a mark is thereby made because
12 the Mercedes is not travelling on the direction that it
13 should, so to speak, and that can create a mark with no
14 kink in it because the impact has occurred just ahead of
15 the mark.
16 Q. Yes, but on one of scenarios that you have advanced,
17 impact during the course of the single tyre mark, you
18 might have expected a kink or deviation in those
20 A. If significant force is being exerted, then there would
21 be a slight change of direction, but whether it was
22 enough to register -- because we are only dealing with
23 very, very slight changes in direction over the whole
24 course of that mark. The change of direction has only
25 been very slight. If that change of direction has been
1 modified by a contact, so that it is more open than it
2 otherwise would have been, it was not quite as tight as
3 it would otherwise have been, then you are really not
4 going to see that. It is merely that the force that has
5 been exerted has made the mark rather more open.
6 I think that the French only took three measurements
7 down the whole length of that, so you cannot really tell
8 much about its shape.
9 Q. No, but just concentrating on this point for the moment,
10 Dr Searle: if impact had occurred during the course of
11 that tyre mark, you might have expected to see
12 a deviation or a kink?
13 A. You might and might not. Also the French might or might
14 not have registered it because if all they are doing is
15 taking a measurement here at the beginning, here in the
16 middle and here at the end, then if there is some change
17 of direction of it, we are just never going to know.
18 Q. The fact, Dr Searle, is this: you, of course, cannot say
19 whether the unmarked debris came from this collision or
21 A. That is correct.
22 Q. If the unmarked debris came from this collision, then it
23 obviously puts the impact before the single tyre mark?
24 A. Yes.
25 Q. And by some metres?
1 A. By some metres, but not as many metres as has perhaps
2 been suggested, which I think it was put at one point as
3 10 metres. My arithmetic suggests more like 6.
4 Q. I think that is one of the differences between you as
5 experts, but if -- if -- the unmarked debris came from
6 this collision, then the collision must have occurred
7 some metres before the start of the single tyre mark.
8 A. That is right, something like 6 metres. I might add
9 that it is perfectly true, as I said, that I cannot tell
10 whether that unmarked debris was part of this collision,
11 but neither can Mr Read and so we are left with the
12 French evidence.
13 Q. Alcohol: you included in your report a number of
14 paragraphs on the topic of alcohol and an analysis of
15 certain statistical information.
16 A. That is correct.
17 Q. What was your purpose in doing that, Dr Searle?
18 A. In order to give people who are not familiar, as I am,
19 with the accident statistics relating to alcohol, to
20 give people a feel as to the likely effect of a driver
21 being at the sort of alcohol level that has been alleged
22 for Mr Henri Paul.
23 Q. It surely must come to this, must it not, Dr Searle? If
24 you have the choice of two drivers of comparable driving
25 ability and one is sober and one has more than twice
1 the UK limit of alcohol in his body, you are always
2 going to choose the sober driver, are you not? And if
3 your answer to that is "no", then please say so and
5 A. No, I am just waiting for my chance to answer. That is
7 Q. All right. Well do, please.
8 A. Of course, given two comparable drivers, the one that is
9 not over the limit will have a lower accident rate. Of
10 course. That has been established in studies.
11 What I wanted to point out is that although the
12 accident rate is considerably higher, much higher, for
13 a driver who is well over the limit, if that is the case
14 here, nevertheless, it is not so much higher as you
15 might think that there is no way that he is going to get
16 down the road and around the first bend before he has an
17 accident. It is not like that at all.
18 It is, of course, higher, and as you heard me say
19 earlier, I am the last person, with my interest in road
20 safety as I have, to justify drinking and driving. But
21 here we are not concerned with public policy so much as
22 looking at what relevance that has for this incident,
23 and a driver that had drunk as much as been alleged for
24 Henri Paul would have an accident rate perhaps ten times
25 a completely sober driver, and that means that his risk,
1 Mr Henri Paul's risk, of having an accident on this
2 2.5-mile journey that he was doing was about the same as
3 somebody this court would have on a 25-mile journey; in
4 other words, there is a risk, but it is a small risk.
5 It still remains a one in many thousands chance of
6 having an accident.
7 Q. You have said that one must not assume that he would
8 have been incapable of driving down the road, incapable
9 of driving down the road and turning the first bend.
10 A. That is right.
11 Q. No one is suggesting that at all, Dr Searle.
12 The relevance of alcohol in this case is that where
13 a driver has to make a sudden decision, his ability to
14 do so is significantly worse when he has more than twice
15 the legal limit for alcohol in his system. That is
16 right, isn't it?
17 A. Yes, that is one of effects of alcohol, the one that you
18 have picked out. But all the effects of alcohol
19 together give rise to the increased accident rate with
20 alcohol and, as I have said, that increased accident
21 rate is such that although it would be a reprehensible
22 thing to do and nobody should do it, nevertheless,
23 the chance of having an accident on this journey from
24 the Ritz to Mr Al Fayed's apartment would still be one
25 in many thousands.
1 Q. Yes, but if, in the course of that journey, a sudden
2 decision has to be made, the ability to react to that
3 hazard, whatever it may be, is significantly impaired,
4 is it not, with this amount of alcohol in the body --
5 A. Yes.
6 Q. -- 187.
7 A. The reaction time will be slower, but if you are driving
8 down the dual carriageway and someone comes over the
9 lane-dividing line when you are coming up to go past,
10 then no matter how good a driver you may be, you may
11 well still have a glancing collision with them.
12 Q. I want to put what I suggest are very general basic
13 principles to you, Dr Searle, as you introduce this
14 topic in the course of your report.
15 A. I am happy to deal with them.
16 Q. Alcohol impairs driving, even from the very first drink.
17 A. Yes, that is the modern view.
18 Q. And it is the right view.
19 A. Yes, it is the modern view.
20 Q. And the right view, Dr Searle, or do you not agree?
21 A. The evidence at extremely low levels of alcohol is much
22 less certain and it becomes a de minimis thing of an
23 extremely low level and can you really say that there is
24 any observable effect?
25 Certainly, when you are getting to measurable
1 quantities of alcohol in the system, it impairs driving.
2 Q. The effects of alcohol, and certainly the levels that we
3 are dealing with here, Dr Searle, the ability to pick
4 out movement in relation to peripheral vision is
5 particularly impaired?
6 A. Most of the driving activities are impaired and all of
7 that is swept up together in the increased accident
8 rate, which is why I quote it. Rather than pick out
9 this factor or that factor, altogether we know that
10 the overall effect is as I have stated it.
11 Q. So peripheral vision is impaired through the taking of
13 A. Nearly all the driving activities are impaired to some
14 degree --
15 Q. I am asking you about peripheral vision, for obvious
17 A. I can agree with that, but I am not sure of its
18 relevance because if you are coming up to overtake
19 a Fiat car ahead of you, you can hardly say it is in
20 your peripheral vision.
21 Q. What about a car coming out of the sliproad?
22 A. Again, it is not really peripheral vision and this
23 collision between the two has not occurred as the car
24 emerged from the sliproad.
25 Q. No, but --
1 A. It is some way down the road --
2 Q. -- shortly thereafter?
3 A. It has been in the forward vision and not in
4 the peripheral vision for some way.
5 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Dr Searle, I wonder if I can be
6 clear about your position on this.
7 Is it your evidence that if, and I appreciate that
8 it is a big "if" because that area of the case has not
9 been heard yet, but if the driver was over twice
10 the legal limit that you are not persuaded that this has
11 any relevance to this tragedy and that the jury should
12 proceed accordingly; is that your position?
13 A. In a nutshell, yes.
14 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: I see.
15 MR HORWELL: Well --
16 A. That accident rate is increased, sir, by a very
17 significant amount, but that does not mean that it must
18 necessarily have a bearing upon what has happened and
19 why. There are other factors also that counterbalance
20 that one.
21 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Shall we break off until --
22 MR HORWELL: I do not think I need to ask any further
23 questions after that, sir.
24 LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: We will resume at ten to two, but
25 before we rise, there is one other matter.
1 I understand that an agreement has been reached that
2 a number of witnesses' evidence should be read under
3 rule 37 and that has been covered in correspondence, but
4 because we may have in the foreseeable future some spare
5 time capacity, could I mention with a view to possible
6 agreement, the following witnesses for consideration for
7 having their evidence read as unlikely to be disputed:
8 Michael Walker, who I think was with Clarence Williams;
9 Michel Massebeuf who was the SAMU ambulance driver;
10 Daniel Eyraud who was the anaesthetist at
11 the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital; and Dr Marc Lejay who
12 prepared the SAMU timeline.
13 I would be very grateful if the interested persons
14 would give some thought to that in the foreseeable
15 future. Ten to two.
16 (12.55 pm)
17 (The short adjournment)