Bus death suspect admits collision caused woman's death

A former bus driver has admitted that a 62-year-old mother died of multiple injuries as a result of a collision involving her car and a bus he took without authority on a rampage through west Dublin two years ago.

Peter Clarke (aged 38) of Kiltalown Court, Tallaght is on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on charges arising out of what the jury was told was "an odyssey of destruction" resulting in Ms Marie Buckley's death.

Defence counsel, Mr Hugh Hartnett SC (with Mr Nehru Morgan Pillay BL), made the admissions to the jury on behalf of his client on day-two of the trial during which evidence was given that gardaí believed they were going to be killed as a result of the bus crashing into patrol cars and dragging them along.

Evidence was also heard that Clarke asked his boss about a week before the incident on May 7, 2006 for a day off so that he could go for an interview for the priesthood but a day after the interview Clarke said his application had been late and he would have to try again later.

Mr Hartnett read out the admissions that Clarke took a 53-seater coach without permission from Dualways Bus Company depot and collided with numerous vehicles, resulting in Ms Buckley's death "from multiple injuries to her head, chest, pelvis and lower limbs, consistent with being dragged along the road as the bus ploughed through vehicles in front of her dark blue Nissan Micra".

He said his client also admitted driving at gardaí as they attempted to employ a "stinger" device to deflate the bus's tyres and that he produced a knife, knuckle-duster and hatchet while violently resisting arrest.

A garda in an unmarked patrol car which was lodged at the front of the rampaging bus and shunted sideways into oncoming traffic said he believed the accused "intended to kill all the gardai in his path".

Garda Paul Comerford told prosecuting counsel, Ms Pauline Walley SC (with Ms Caroline Cummings BL), that he saw Clarke "snarl his teeth" and drop his head just before he veered right on the Naas Road inbound and rammed into his unmarked Ford Mondeo and another garda car.

Gda Comerford said he put his blue Ford Mondeo into reverse but the bus was already on top of him and carried the car around 100 metres into oncoming traffic on the outbound lane across the Luas junction.

He said he heard the bus' engine increase its power and carry the car and three trapped gardaí faster down the road into the stationary line of vehicles.

Gda Comerford said he was shouting: "Oh s**t, oh s**t" believing he was going to die and heard his garda colleague cry out that he would not see his wife and daughter again.

He told Ms Walley that the three gardaí had to move in towards the centre of the cabin as it was being crushed and torn on either side by the cars it was ploughing into.

Gda Comerford agreed with Mr Harnett that when he was dispatched in his unmarked car with two garda passengers, garda control had mentioned the bus driver "might be unstable".

Gda Comerford said he was amazed he and his colleagues were alive when his car separated from the bus.

He added that he became aware that a lady was lying on the road beside their crushed car and that his colleague staggered out of his door to her assistance.

The driver of one of the cars struck by the bus told Ms Walley that the trapped Ford Mondeo slowed the bus down and saved his life and the lives of many other drivers and passengers.

Ms Brendan Flynn said when he saw the bus accelerate the wrong way down the road, he jumped out of his car and ran back through the line of stationary traffic screaming at the other drivers to get out of their cars.

Mr David McConn, the accused's former boss at Dualways said he asked for a day off to go to a priesthood interview which was scheduled for the day before the incident. He then told him a day after the interview that he missed the application deadline but would try again for the priesthood.

Mr McConn told Ms Walley that Mr Clarke had resigned from his job in August 2005 after four years with the company to drive trucks in America. He said he got a call from Mr Clarke in March 2006 looking for his job back because he said he was worried he would lose his council house in Tallaght.

Mr McConn told Ms Walley that the accused turned up in the bus depot yard a few days later and was joking and showing off his tan to other Dualways staff.

Mr McConn noted that he thought this unusual behaviour for Mr Clarke, who was normally a quiet, withdrawn worker.

He said Mr Clarke told him he often slept in the trucks he drove from Utah to Los Angeles in the USA because the company there did not pay his expenses.

Mr McConn said he got a call from his chief supervisor the morning of the rampage to say Mr Clarke had taken the wrong bus from the depot and had ignored other colleagues as they tried to hail him down at various locations in Dublin.

Mr McConn said he called his retired father to do Mr Clarke's scheduled shuttle from Citywest to Hueston Station and set out to track the missing bus in his car.

He said he spotted the coach and followed it into Hueston Station bus park where he got out of his car and walked up to the driver's side indicating to Mr Clarke to roll down his window.

He said when the accused rolled down the window, he was wearing sunglasses, had loud music playing and was smirking. When he asked Mr Clarke if he was confused about his bus route he replied: "No" in a calm voice.

Mr McConn said he stood in front of the bus in a "five or six second stand-off" when Mr Clarke refused to pull it aside before he accelerated towards him.

"My initial reaction was to stand there but then I realised had I stayed, I would have got knocked down."

He said he rang the gardaí to tell them one of his bus drivers was out of control after Mr Clarke drove out of the station buspark breaking a red light.

Mr McConn said he chased the bus up the Naas Road inbound lane with the gardaí on the phone and saw they had placed two cars at the Bluebell junction.

He said Mr Clarke, who began to weave across all the lanes, "slowed down to a snail's pace" but suddenly "put the foot down" and drove across the junction onto the outbound road against oncoming traffic.

Garda Edward Davin of the Dublin Metropolitan Traffic Division indicated on photographs the damage done to an unmarked garda car lodged on the front of the bus as Mr Clarke veered off the inbound road and ploughed through the line of traffic.

He said this car, carrying three gardaí, collided with numerous cars, including Ms Buckley's dark blue Nissan Micra. The coach and garda car crashed into a silver Almera which reversed into Ms Buckley's car.

He showed photographs of the Nissan Micra's crushed bonnet and said Ms Buckley had been the driver but was unable to escape through the passenger door after her daughter.

Gda Davin said two doctors who had been passengers in one of the vehicles ran to help Ms Buckley but could find no pulse.

He said he found droplets of blood on the undercarriage of the bus after it crashed on an embankment in Dualways bus depot yard.

The trial continues before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of eight women

and four men.


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