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EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 13:18 GMT
Crash driver's marathon phone chats
Gary Hart arrives at Leeds Crown Court
Gary Hart had separated from his wife Elaine (left)
Gary Hart stayed up most of the night before the Selby rail crash in a marathon phone conversation with a woman he met over the internet.

Hart, from Strubby in Lincolnshire, spent hours talking with Kristeen Panter.

The father-of-four, a self-employed builder, had separated from his wife Elaine, 38.

He met Mrs Panter, who had also recently separated, after she replied to a personal advert he had placed with an internet dating agency.

Hart's phone calls with Kristeen Panter
4.36pm: One hour eight minutes
8.25pm: 23 minutes
9.25pm: Hart sends text message
9.48pm: Three hour conversation
10.24pm: Logged on to net for five hours 34 mins
4.13am: Mrs Panter's final text message
The pair first made contact eight days before the Selby rail crash.

James Goss QC, prosecuting, told the court how their relationship started.

"They established contact by e-mail and they had exchanged text message and telephone numbers," he said.

"By 27 February, the day before the accident, although they had never met there was clearly a high degree of mutual interest."

Mr Goss told the jury that on 27 February Mrs Panter had called Hart's home at 4.36pm. The pair spoke for one hour and eight minutes.

They then chatted again at 8.25pm for 23 minutes.

An hour later Hart sent Mrs Panter, who is in her 40s, a text message from his mobile phone.

He then called her again at 9.48pm and they talked for nearly three hours.

'Buzzing with excitement'

The court also heard how Hart had also logged onto the internet on his business line at 10.24pm.

He stayed online for five hours and 34 minutes until 3.58am.

The couple exchanged a final text message at 4.13am from Mrs Panter to Hart.

After their marathon phone conversations, Hart left his home for Wigan at 4.40am on a 145-mile drive to work.

When quizzed by police about how tired he was on the day of the crash, Hart said he had been "buzzing with excitement" as a result of his conversations with Mrs Panter.

The couple had been intending to meet for the first time on the evening of the tragedy.

Phone records checked

Hart initially kept his relationship with Mrs Panter from the police and did not mention the hours he had spent chatting to her.

But once police checked his home phone and mobile phone records he admitted what had happened.

Hart said he had hardly slept the night before the crash but told police he could get by on very little sleep.

But he always denied falling asleep at the wheel.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"He routinely went days on end without food or sleep"

Key stories

Background stories

KEY COURT STORIES

IN PICTURES

CLICKABLE CRASH GUIDE

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