AN Evesham lorry driver showed "disregard for public safety" a senior police officer has said after he was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving on the M1.

Ryszard Masierak, aged 32, of Barnards Close, Evesham, Worcestershire, was found guilty yesterday by a unanimous jury of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, at Reading Crown Court.

At around 3am on Saturday 26 August last year Masierak had been driving a heavy goods vehicle on the M1 southbound near Newport Pagnell. He stopped his lorry in lane one of the carriageway where he remained for 12.5 minutes, causing an obstruction.

Senior investigating officer Detective Sergeant Gavin Collier, of the Joint Operations Unit for Roads Policing, said: “This tragedy has permanently devastated the lives of all of those involved and is wholly the responsibility of both the defendants in the case, Mr Wagstaff and Mr Masierak.

“What is so poignant is that this tragedy was completely and utterly avoidable.

“This is not a case about people who drive heavy goods vehicles, but about all those drivers who fix their vehicles on cruise control or use hands free mobile phone devices but then fail to pay proper attention to what is going on in the road in front of them.

“The actions of Mr Masierak were beyond explanation or reason – to drive knowing you’re drunk, to stop your vehicle in the middle of the road - there are no words that can describe such disregard for public safety.”

Louise Attrill, senior crown prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, said: “CCTV showed that the Scania lorry was parked in lane one without hazard warning lights on, causing a dangerous obstruction, for 12.5 minutes.

"At the scene Ryszard Masierak tried to claim he wasn’t the driver of the Scania lorry, he was over the prescribed limit for alcohol when breathalysed, and went on to answer ‘no comment’ during his police interviews.

"Witnesses described seeing him drive the wrong way around a roundabout where the A46 meets junction 2 of the M6, driving the wrong way down the M69 slip road, and swerving between lanes two and three before crawling in lane three.

“Analysis of his vehicle data identified his driving as erratic.

"On occasions his speed dropped to as low as 11mph.

"Wagstaff was on a hands-free call on his mobile phone with his Mercedes lorry on cruise control when he failed to see or react to the two stationary vehicles ahead of him and ploughed into the back of them causing destruction and devastation. The driver of the minibus and seven of his passengers were killed and four others, including a five-year-old girl, sustained serious injuries as a result of the horrific collision.

“This incident, caused by driver error of one drink driver and the prolonged inattention of another, resulted in a tragic waste of life and could have been avoided.

"The stationary vehicles were clearly visible to Wagstaff for a considerable time, but he was oblivious to the approaching hazard. This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to be alert when driving. Holding a driving licence brings with it a high degree of responsibility that should always be at the forefront of every driver’s mind. “

David Wagstaff, aged 54, of Derwent Street, Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to eight counts of causing death by careless driving at a previous hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court on 26 September 2017. He was acquitted of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving by a jury today (7/3).

A group of family and friends was travelling in a minibus on their way to a trip around Europe, driven by Cyriac Joseph. 

Mr Joseph’s widow Ancy was emotional as her cousin Matthew John told reporters they have been denied “full justice”.

Describing Mr Jospeh as a “great father, loving husband and a very good friend”, he added: “I don’t think we have got full justice.

“It’s probably the time to think about the law around using mobile phones while driving.

“I think there should be monitoring cameras in the cabin to see what actually these drivers are doing.

“I hope the Highways Agency and the other appropriate authorities will do something to prevent these sort of accidents in the future.”

The minibus approached Masierak’s stationary HGV in lane one, and stopped behind it, unable to pull in to lane two to overtake due to traffic.

Meanwhile Wagstaff was driving a lorry which approached the scene. He was talking on his mobile phone using hands free while on cruise control. He collided with the stationary vehicles while travelling at 56mph, pushing the minibus under Masierak’s lorry.

Both defendants are due to be sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court on 23 March.