Smart motorways widow demands her husband's killer is not deported

Steve Bird
·3-min read
Claire Mercer has written to the Transport Secretary calling for her husband's killer to return to his family in Hull rather than be deported to Poland after he has served his prison sentence - Charlotte Graham
Claire Mercer has written to the Transport Secretary calling for her husband's killer to return to his family in Hull rather than be deported to Poland after he has served his prison sentence - Charlotte Graham

The widow of a man killed on a smart motorway has written to Grant Shapps calling for her husband’s killer not to be deported because she believes Highways England is “responsible” for his death.

Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, stopped their vehicles on the inside live lane of the M1 near Sheffield after a minor shunt in June 2019.

Five minutes later Prezemyslaw Szuba’s lorry ploughed into them at 56mph, killing the pair outright after the driver failed to take evasive action in the five seconds he had to spot them.

The crash happened a mile from an emergency refuge area on a stretch of motorway where the hard shoulder had been scrapped and turned into a fourth lane.

Highways England staff did not see the stationary cars on CCTV or with its detection system in time to close the carriageway to prevent the collision.

Szuba, a 40-year-old Polish man, was jailed for 10 months in October for causing the deaths driving without due care and attention.

Mr Mercer’s wife, Claire, has insisted Szuba is himself a victim of Highways England’s policy to remove hard shoulders despite not having technology to detect all stranded cars.

She has contacted Szuba’s partner who revealed he is to be deported after serving his sentence, rather than return to the family home he shares with his two children in Hull.

Mrs Mercer, 44, has written to the Transport Secretary claiming it is “corrupt” that people are being jailed for killing motorists while those “responsible” for removing the hard shoulder are “not held to account”.

Her letter comes on the eve of an inquest which will be held into Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu’s deaths in Sheffield.

“There has been enough devastation from the events of June 2019,” Mrs Mercer, 44, wrote. “The Government has unfairly ruined this man’s life already. It seems a perverse level of callousness to now threaten to deport him. My husband would not have wanted this done in his name.”

A Home Office Government spokesman said: “Any foreign national who is convicted of an offence and given a custodial sentence is considered for deportation.

“For European Economic Area nationals, a decision can only be made on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. Cases are considered individually and take into account a range of factors.”

Mrs Mercer has launched a campaign called "Smart Motorways Kill" which has seen relatives of those who have died launch a judicial review into their safety, as well as attempt to prosecute Highways England for corporate manslaughter.

The Transport Secretary commissioned an evidence stocktake to gather the facts about smart motorways, and subsequently ordered Highways England to deliver an 18-point action plan, which focuses on making the schemes less confusing, adding additional stopped vehicle detection technology and traffic officer patrols, and making emergency areas more visible with better and more frequent signage.