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Daily Record
Daily Record
Vic Rodrick

Scots driver's detached trailer turned into 'unguided missile' as it ploughed into woman

A trailer with faulty brakes turned into “an unguided missile” when it detached from the Land Rover towing it, a judge said today. Lord Mulholland told driver Mark McVay he was criminally responsible for causing the death of 38-year-old Michelle Russell because he had failed to make sure the trailer was hitched securely to his vehicle before the accident near Saline in Fife August 30 2018.

Michelle, from Alva, Clackmannanshire, had set off on the morning of the crash planning to visit her grandmother. The judge said she had no time to take evasive action as the uncoupled trailer crossed into her side of the road and collided almost head on with her car.

The injuries she suffered were “catastrophic and unsurvivable”, he said, and her death had caused grief, loss and incalculable heartbreak to her relatives, including her parents George and Margaret and her sisters Amanda and Nicola.

He said: “It is clear from the Victim Impact Statements that Michelle was deeply loved by her parents and sisters and wider family. I was particularly moved by her father's description of Michelle's love for wild flowers and the single red flower which reminded him of her.

“Remembering all that she meant to them will hopefully bring some comfort over time. They all have my deepest sympathies. I hope that time may assuage to some extent their grief and loss.”

Michelle Russell was killed when a trailer collided with her car (Police Scotland)

McVay, 56, from Backmuir of Pitfirrane, Dunfermline, had denied causing Ms Russell’s death by driving the Land Rover and trailer dangerously while both were in unsafe condition. He was found guilty of the offences following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in October.

The vehicle faults included a fractured chassis on the Land Rover and a defective emergency braking mechanism on the trailer. The jury was told that the trailer had been heavily modified by having a crane and power pack fixed to it by McVay before the fatal crash at West Road, near Saline, in Fife.

The second hand dealer and groundworker refused to accept that he hadn’t locked the trailer coupling properly, but the jury rejected his claims. Ronnie Renucci, defending, said McVay had expressed genuine remorse for the accident and had demonstrated appropriate empathy for Michell's family.

Passing sentence at the High Court in Livingston on Friday, Lord Mulholland described the accident as a tragedy that needn't have occurred. He said: “Like many cases I have dealt with over the years, a combination of mistakes and errors can result in a catastrophe as happened here.

“It was clear on the evidence and the jury's verdict that the coupling on the morning of 30 August 2018 wasn't secure and as such it was a tragedy waiting to happen. When the coupling separated from the tow ball, it was an unguided missile having no workable brakes to slow it down and stop it.

“None of this should have happened and the collision could easily have been prevented if the trailer had been maintained and modified safely and the coupling secured and checked. All that I have catalogued here put the public at risk – and in particular Michelle Russell at risk – and she died tragically when the risk became reality.”

He said he accepted that the defects to McVay’s Land Rover had not contributed to the collision, but nevertheless they were serious and, along with the condition of the trailer, showed a “cavalier attitude to safety”.

Jailing McVay for four years on the dangerous driving charge the judge added: “No sentence I can impose can ever bring Michelle Russell back nor assuage the loss and grief felt by her family. It is not intended to do so.”

He backdated the sentence to 1 November when the accused was remanded in custody and banned him from driving for six years and until he passes an extended test of competence to drive. He admonished McVay for driving a vehicle in dangerous condition instead of imposing a fine.


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