Bus driver caused 'odyssey of destruction', court hears

A former bus driver has gone on trial for causing the death of a 62-year-old mother when he rampaged through west Dublin in a private bus he took without authority from his employer's depot two years ago.

Peter Clarke (aged 38) collided with numerous vehicles on May 07, 2006 in what prosecution counsel, Ms Pauline Walley SC, described at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court as "an odyssey of destruction" resulting in Ms Marie Buckley's death.

Ms Walley (with Ms Caroline Cummings BL) told the jury it would hear evidence of how the victim was trapped in her car which was then carried several hundred metres down the road after it "lodged" on the front of the bus after the collision.

She said that as well as causing the death of Ms Buckley, he damaged around 25 vehicles - some of them unmarked garda cars - during his rampage in the Bluebell and Naas Road areas, and that he threatened arresting gardaí with a knife and an axe.

She added there would also be evidence that gardaí tried to shoot the bus' tyres as it travelled at speed against oncoming traffic on the Naas Road.

Mr Clarke, of Kiltalown Court, Tallaght has pleaded not guilty to 28 charges, including manslaughter through dangerous driving, criminal damage and reckless endangerment.

Ms Walley said the accused was rostered to drive another bus from Dualways Bus Company depot at Rathcoole but stole a 53-seater single decker coach and was spotted by his boss driving it around Hueston Station at about midday.

She said Mr Clarke drove the bus at his boss when he followed him into Hueston Station carpark and tried to persuade him to return the vehicle.

She said the accused's boss continued to pursue him and rang the gardaí when he saw him around the Citywest area a short time later.

Ms Walley said gardaí, dispatched from all over Dublin, chased Mr Clarke in unmarked patrol cars and he attempted to ram one garda car as it drew level with the coach on the Naas Road.

She said gardaí positioned two cars at a Luas junction ahead of the approaching bus but Mr Clarke veered to the right and collided with the cars, wedging one of them at the front of his vehicle "like a snow-plough".

She said he drove the bus down the outbound lane of the Naas Road against oncoming traffic with the Ford Mondeo garda car lodged at the front.

Ms Walley said that in the "odyssey of destruction" which followed, civilians tried to dodge the bus by jumping out of their cars.

Ms Buckley and her grown-up daughter both tried to free themselves of their car seatbelts as the bus approached. The deceased's daughter managed to get free but her mother remained trapped and was carried several hundred metres down the road by the bus and the 'lodged' garda car.

Ms Walley said that at this point the garda car became free of the bus and Mr Clarke continued at speed toward Dolphin's Barn before he eventually turned the bus back in the Rathcoole direction, toward the Dualways depot.

She said gardaí chased him as he drove the bus through the depot's closed gates and crashed onto an embankment in the yard.

Ms Walley added that Mr Clarke violently resisted arrest, threatening arresting gardaí with a knife and an axe. He was detained at Kevin Street garda station for interview after he was released from Tallaght Hospital later that day.

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

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