Father still has nightmares over son’s death in M9 crash, inquiry hears
A father whose son died after crashing off a motorway and lay undiscovered for days still has nightmares about the incident, an inquiry has heard.
Lamara Bell, 25, and John Yuill, 28, died after the car they were in left the M9 near Stirling on July 5 2015.
They lay in their Renault Clio for three days before being discovered, despite police previously being alerted to the incident.
Gordon Yuill said that while he knows his son John died quickly, he was denied “dignity in death” and he believes Ms Bell could have been saved if she had been found sooner.
Mr Yuill told a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the deaths that he feared his son may have been in a road accident when he and Ms Bell did not return from a camping trip to Loch Earn.
It was unbelievable. We were shocked, we were hurt. John deserved dignity in death and he didn't see it
The others who had been on the trip came to his house at around 4pm on Sunday July 5 to ask if he had seen John as, when they woke, Mr Yuill, Ms Bell and the car they had travelled in were gone.
The FAI, taking place at Falkirk Sheriff Court, heard Mr Yuill also thought it possible his son may have been taken into custody as there was a warrant out for his arrest for a non-appearance at court on a relatively minor matter.
Mr Yuill, 59, phoned police at around 4.40 pm on Sunday July 5 to ask whether his son was in custody but was told there was no record of him.
The inquiry also heard a recording of a call Mr Yuill made to police at 9.30pm to ask again if his son had been arrested.
At that point, the call handler said she would start a missing person report and took details.
She asked Mr Yuill if it was in character for his son to go missing.
He replied: “No, it’s totally out of character. I usually see my son every day and he contacts me every day.
“I’m increasingly concerned he has had an accident on one of those roads up there.”
The inquiry heard that investigations over the next few days found no trace of the couple.
It was not until 12.30pm on Wednesday July 8 that Mr Yuill was told the car containing his son and Ms Bell had been found, and that he was dead and she had been taken to hospital.
Ms Bell, a mother of two, died four days later.
The inquiry heard that later on July 8 police told him that as part of their investigation it had emerged a member of the public called police on the morning of Sunday July 5 to report a car that was off the road, but that no action was taken.
The car was found on July 8 after another person called in to report the matter.
Gavin Anderson KC, senior counsel to the inquiry, read a statement which Mr Yuill gave to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), who were investigating the incident, in mid July 2015.
In it, he said: “I know John died quickly, however he still lay there for three days. Lamara, to my mind, could have been saved if she had been found on Sunday July 5.
“I still have nightmares about it. I want answers about why this happened.”
Mr Anderson said: “This was your position in July 2015, is that will your position today?” to which Mr Yuill replied: “Yes.”
Brian McConnachie KC, representing Mr Yuill, asked him how he felt when he was told the crash had been reported to police three days before the car was found.
He said: “It was unbelievable. We were shocked, we were hurt. John deserved dignity in death and he didn’t see it.”
Mr Yuill described his son, a father of five, as a “loving person, very hard working” who loved his children and his family.
The inquiry also heard from Lamara’s brother Liam Bell, 27, who described her as an “amazing sister” and a “brilliant mother”.
He and his girlfriend went on the camping trip with Mr Yuill, Ms Bell and another friend.
Mr Yuill, who had a provisional licence, drove the group under supervision by a qualified driver, and was described as a “considerate driver” by Mr Bell.
He told the inquiry that once they had reached their campsite they spent the evening socialising and drinking, and everyone took cannabis apart from his girlfriend.
He said that he heard Mr Yuill and Ms Bell arguing before he went to sleep but did not know what the dispute was about.
In the afternoon, the inquiry had expected to hear more from Mr Bell but Mr Anderson told the inquiry that he was not in a position to give further evidence and it was not his intention to recall him later in the inquiry.
The inquiry then heard recordings of a series of phone calls made to police by Ms Bell’s mother Diane to report her daughter missing before adjourning for the day.
The FAI comes after the family of Ms Bell was awarded more than £1 million in damages from Police Scotland in a civil settlement in December 2021.
In September 2021, the force was fined £100,000 at the High Court in Edinburgh after it pleaded guilty to health and safety failings which “materially contributed” to Ms Bell’s death.
At the time, the court heard Ms Bell pleaded for help after being found and would probably have survived had this happened sooner.
The inquiry, before Sheriff James Williamson, continues.
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