Inquiry into M9 crash deaths delayed to September

The inquiry into the deaths of a couple who were left undiscovered for days after crashing off the M9 motorway in Scotland has been postponed until September.

Lamara Bell, 25, and John Yuill, 28, both died after the car they were in crashed on the motorway near Stirling in July 2015.

They were left lying in their Renault Clio for three days before being discovered, despite police previously being alerted to the incident.

The second preliminary diet for the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the case took place at Falkirk Sheriff Court on Friday.

Murdo Macleod KC, representing Police Scotland, lodged a motion to postpone the commencement of the full inquiry due to Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone’s “significant undertaking” as a “core participant” into the ongoing inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh – who died in police custody in 2015.

Sir Iain Livingstone is also involved in the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Sir Iain Livingstone is also involved in the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The court heard the FAI into Mr Bayoh’s death, which is examining if race was a factor, is scheduled to conclude in June.

Mr Macleod said the resource requirement for both cases is “significant”, in citing his reasons for the request.

He said: “The chief constable is very keen to make progress and is acutely aware that almost eight years have passed since this tragedy occurred.”

Representatives on behalf of other participants backed the postponement, citing Mr Macleod’s reasons as “sensible” and “productive”.

Sheriff James Williamson, confirming the postponement, said he was “grateful to the relatives of Mr Yuill and Ms Bell for their understanding”.

He added: “By postponing the hearing today, it will mean that the inquiry will proceed uninterrupted.”

A third preliminary hearing has been set for April 28, with a fourth on August 4. The full inquiry is now scheduled to start in the week beginning September 18.

Advocate depute Gavin Anderson said he expects the inquiry to last “a number of weeks”.

M9 crash scene
Police at the scene of the crash after the couple’s car was discovered (PA)

It comes after the family of Ms Bell were awarded more than £1 million in damages from Police Scotland in a civil settlement in December 2021.

The force was also fined £100,000 in September of the same year at the High Court in Edinburgh after it pleaded guilty to health and safety failings which “materially contributed” to Ms Bell’s death.

The court heard Ms Bell pleaded for help after being found and would probably have survived had she been rescued sooner.

Sir Iain apologised to the families of Mr Yuill and Ms Bell following the court case.

When their car was discovered on July 8 2015, Mr Yuill was pronounced dead at the scene and Ms Bell died four days later in hospital.

A member of the public had reported the crashed vehicle to police on July 5, but no action was taken until another member of the public noticed the car three days later, heard Ms Bell pleading for help, and called the police.

Similar to an inquest in England and Wales, an FAI is not a criminal inquiry and is used to establish facts rather than apportion blame.

Their purpose includes determining the cause of death, the circumstances in which the death occurred, and to establish what reasonable precautions could have been taken to minimise the risk of future deaths in similar circumstances.