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The BBC's Heather Lima reports
"He was prepared to fake his own death"
 real 28k

Monday, 14 February, 2000, 13:47 GMT
Paddington death-faker escapes jail term

Paddington The Paddington crash claimed the lives of 31 people

A man who faked his own death in the Paddington rail disaster has narrowly escaped an immediate jail sentence after he admitted wasting police time.

Karl Hackett, 37, was given a suspended sentence of five months for pretending he had perished in October's tragedy so that he could assume a new identity - having already tried to live a double life using other people's names.

His father, Brian, and sister Valerie had joined the families of genuine victims at the memorial service at the crash site days after the accident, Horseferry Road magistrates court in London was told.

Karl Hackett attempted to fake his death Karl Hackett attempted to fake his death
Michael Ivers, representing Hackett, said his client, was "clearly culpable".

But he urged stipendiary magistrate Geoffrey Breen to show leniency because the computer graphics expert had been publicly humiliated by the episode.

Sentencing Hackett, of Barking, Essex, Mr Breen said it was with "considerable hesitation" that he had decided to suspend the sentence for two years.

London Train Crash
He said: "What you did was to divert, and to a significant extent, the efforts of the casualty service from the difficult and sensitive work it had to do.

"It prevented the officers of the bureau from identifying those who were killed or injured in that appalling tragedy and, in some cases, setting the minds of relatives of loved ones of those believed to be missing at rest, or whatever the case may be."

Mr Breen gave Hackett credit for his guilty plea and also said he accepted that the hoaxer's plan to erase his former identity had backfired, with the case receiving widespread media coverage.

The court heard that Hackett had wasted more than 30 hours of police time with his hoax.

He twice phoned the Paddington crash emergency line set up by police in the aftermath of the disaster which claimed 31 lives.

The first time he pretended to be his boss, using the name Lee Simm.

As Simm, he told police he feared Hackett was in the wreckage of carriage H - the first class compartment that became engulfed in fire and smoke.

In his second call the next day, he claimed to be his brother, again telling police Hackett was missing.

'Double life'

An investigation revealed how for nearly 20 years Hackett - who has previous convictions for indecent assault and a series of minor crimes - had been leading a double life, passing himself off as Lee Simm.

For his double identity, he used the forename of a friend who died in childhood and a surname of a former girlfriend.

Alan Milford, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said that on the day of the Paddington crash, 40 telephone lines were set up to deal with calls from worried relatives.

On the first day alone they had taken 4,000 calls reporting 2,500 people missing. He said it took 15 minutes to process each call.

He said: "At the bare minimum 31 hours of police time was wasted at a time when police resources were stretched to the very limit.

"The nature of the work the police undertook was very distressing, and family liaison officers had the unpleasant task of contacting the family, effectively to tell them there was a good chance their son was dead."

He said Hackett had also caused grief to his own family and delayed police inquiries into the cases of other people who were concerned their loved ones had been on the train.

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  UK
Railtrack loses Paddington signal case
09 Oct 99 |  UK
Rail system failure blamed for crash
10 Oct 99 |  UK
Railtrack to be stripped of safety role

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