Bus driver found not guilty by reason of insanity

A former City of London policeman has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on all charges arising out of his bus rampage which led to the death of 62-year-old Ms Maire Buckley two years ago.

A former City of London policeman has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on all charges arising out of his bus rampage which led to the death of 62-year-old Ms Maire Buckley two years ago.

Peter Clarke (aged 38), formerly of Peter Street, Drogheda and with an address at Kiltalown Court, Tallaght was acquitted by the jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court following one hour and 26 minutes deliberation.

Defence counsel, Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, had submitted in his closing address that the jury should return the 'not guilty by reason of insanity' verdict based on the expert evidence given by psychaitrists, Dr Harry Kennedy, Clinical Director of the Central Mental Hospital and Dr Patricia Casey, of the Mater Hospital.

The jury heard admissions on Clarke's behalf by Mr Hartnett (with Mr Nehru Morgan Pillay BL) earlier in the trial that he drove the Dualways Bus Company vehicle after taking it without authority from its depot in Rathcoole and that collisions occurred including that which led to Ms Buckley's death.

Clarke, who is a patient at the CMH, had pleaded not guilty to 28 charges arising out of what was described as "an odyssey of destruction" when he took a 53-seat coach from its on May 7, 2006 and drove it on a rampage through parts of west Dublin. .

Prosecuting counsel, Ms Pauline Walley SC (with Ms Caroline Cummings BL), asked the jury in her closing address to consider the "clear and compelling evidence of the psychiatrists" who she said were satisfied that Clarke wasn't "fabricating a mental disorder for the purpose of the trial".

Judge Desmond Hogan remanded Clarke to the CMH and thanked the jury of eight women and four men for its care and attention to the case. It was day-five of the trial and

Dr Kennedy, a prosecution witness, said the former policeman was a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from delusions of being pursued by several police forces and intelligence services and had been diagnosed years before the bus incident both here and in the USA as psychotic.

"Schizophrenia is a disease for life. It doesn't go away but is manageable and can be controlled."

Dr Kennedy said that as a result of his "persuasive delusions" Clarke was unable to refrain from his rampage. "He knew what he was doing but he didn't have the mental capacity to understand the consequences of his actions."

Dr Casey said Clarke was "in the throes of an acute mental episode" when he drove into oncoming traffic at Bluebell Luas stop and didn't know the nature or quality of his actions.

"He was too agitated, perplexed and terror-stricken to even consider right from wrong."

Dr Casey said he had been taking oral medication for his condition "erratically" in the months before his rampage and told her he felt very upset. He said he remembered seeing flashing lights as he drove the coach and thought gardaí were trying to assassinate him because he knew too much about British security.

She said Clarke expressed remorse for causing the death of Ms Buckley in psychiatric assessments in August 2006 and February 2007 but despite being on "potent" medication for his paranoid schizophrenia he still had false delusions about being harassed by British Intelligence to infiltrate the IRA.

Dr Casey said he described how he wanted to go home to Tallaght and rest, so he turned the bus around in the direction of the Dualways depot in Rathcoole. He described how he tried to dial "911" in his struggle with arresting gardaí after his bus crashed into an embankment in the depot yard.

She added that Clarke said "he heard the gardaí discuss murdering me" and that he was concerned because they took his Rolex watch.

The jury heard vivid descriptions of Clarke's "odyssey of destruction" from several witnesses including his Dualway's boss and the killed woman's daughter whose mother was trapped in her car which was carried several hundred metres after it "lodged" on the front of the bus after the collision.

Some 25 vehicles - including unmarked garda cars - were damaged in his rampage during which garda tried to shoot the bus's tyres as it travelled at speed against oncoming traffic on the Naas Road while civilians tried to dodge the bus by jumping out of their cars.

Clarke drove the bus directly at his boss who had followed him into Hueston Station carpark and tried to persuade him to return the vehicle. His boss continued to pursue him and rang the gardaí when he saw Clarke around the Citywest area a short time later.

Gardaí were dispatched from all over Dublin to try to apprehend Clarke who rammed them at various points and "wedged" one of them at the front of his vehicle "like a snow-plough".

Mr David McConn, his former boss at Dualways, said Clarke asked for a day-off before the incident because he said he had an interview for the priesthood. Clarke then told him a day after "the interview" that he had missed the application deadline but would try again for the priesthood.

Mr McConn said Clarke had resigned from his job in August 2005 after four years with the company to drive trucks in America.

He got a call from him in March 2006 looking for his job back because he said he was worried he would lose his council house in Tallaght and he turned up a few days later at the depot where he was "joking and showing off his tan" to other Dualways staff.

Mr McConn noted he thought this unusual behaviour for Clarke "who was normally a quiet, withdrawn worker". Clarke told him he often slept in the trucks he drove from Utah to Los Angeles in the USA because the company there didn't pay his expenses.

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

Ms Angela Buckley said her mother was driving her to a First Holy Communion restaurant meal and she was applying makeup and chatting when she saw a man run towards the traffic at Bluebell screaming at people to get out of their cars.

Ms Buckley said her mother pushed her free of their Nissan Micra car before the collision but couldn't get out of her driver's door because the car was beside the LUAS stop railing, ahead of the oncoming bus.

Ms Buckley said she got her seat-belt off first and her mother, who was "half in, half out" of the driver's door when the bus struck, had her hand against her, pushing her out of the car.

When she was free of the car, the bus was initially coming for her but changed direction slightly and hit the car. "By the time I got out and began running, the bus was gone."

Garda Paul Comerford saw Clarke "snarl his teeth" and drop his head just before he rammed the bus into his unmarked Ford Mondeo and another garda car. He heard the bus's engine increase its power and then it carried car and three trapped gardaí faster down the road around 100 metres into oncoming traffic on the outbound lane across the Luas junction into the stationary line of vehicles.

Gda Comerford was shouting "oh s***, oh s***" believing he was going to die and heard on of his colleagues cry out that he wouldn't see his wife and daughter again while their vehicle was being crushed and torn on either side by the cars it was ploughing into.

He was amazed they were alive when their car separated from the bus and they then became aware that beside their crushed car a lady was lying on the road. They staggered out to her assistance.

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