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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 13:11 GMT
Cyclists inquest delay criticised
Pictured clockwise: Thomas Harland, Wayne Wilkes, Maurice Broadbent, Dave Horrocks
The cyclists pictured clockwise: Thomas Harland, Wayne Wilkes, Maurice Broadbent, Dave Horrocks
A coroner has criticised delays which he says prevent him holding an inquest into the deaths of four cyclists in a crash with a car almost a year ago.

Rhyl Cycling Club members Thomas Harland, 14, Maurice Broadbent, 61, Dave Horrocks, 55, and Wayne Wilkes, 42, died near Abergele on 8 January.

The hearing in Llandudno was told there was a delay of months in supplying gritting records to the police.

North-east Wales coroner John Hughes adjourned the hearing until February.

"Almost one year on and we owe it to the families to deal with it as expediently as possible," said Mr Hughes.

He said he had received a hand-delivered file on the case only last week.

Sight has been lost of the grieving families and it seems the matter has been looked at from the council's perspective
Coroner John Hughes

The file - which is still incomplete, the hearing was told - already contains 217 statements.

Mr Hughes said justice delayed was justice denied and that it had to be a transparent investigation.

But he said that from the perspective of the families the delays might suggest a cover-up.

David Hill, a solicitor acting for North Wales Police, gave a detailed chronological account of the way information had been received and treated by the police.

'Profound wish'

Police had first asked for Conwy Council road gritting records in January and the authority supplied them to its solicitor later that month, but the police did not get them until June, the hearing heard.

It also emerged that three key witness statements from council employees had still not been taken.

Mr Hughes said it was his "profound wish" that matters could be moved on for the sake of the families.

"Sight has been lost of the grieving families and it seems the matter has been looked at from the council's perspective - I think the interest of the grieving family is paramount," said the coroner.

Accident scene
The cyclists were on a 60-mile trip between Great Orme and Llanrwst

Mr Hughes told Tim Horlock, QC, on behalf of the council, that he could not understand why information had not been passed on at an earlier stage.

Mr Horlock said it was because time had been needed to consider the information in the documents they had.

The coroner told the police solicitor there needed to be more communication between the force and his office.

He put into force his coroner's powers to direct the council to make available witnesses for interview within 28 days, with a similar directive to another person also involved, but who had now left the council's employment.

This directive could have been issued at an earlier date if his office had been approached by the police, he said.

North Wales Police and Conwy Council would not comment ahead of the inquest.


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"'This must be a transparent investigation', he said"



SEE ALSO
Four cyclists killed in car crash
08 Jan 06 |  North West Wales



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