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A driver who smashed into the back of a minibus killing eight people after he was on a hands-free call for almost an hour has been convicted.

David Wagstaff, 54, was on the phone to a fellow lorry driver with his vehicle on cruise control when the crash on the M1 in Buckinghamshire happened in the early hours of the morning of August 26 last year.

He crashed into the back of the minibus driven by Cyriac Joseph, from Nottingham, who was waiting with his hazard lights on for the chance to go around a second lorry, driven by Ryszard Masierak.

The Polish driver, 32, was stationary for 12 minutes in the slow lane of the motorway at around 3am on the day of the incident, despite there being miles of hard shoulder available.

When Wagstaff hit the minibus at 56mph, it was taking passengers from Nottingham to London to catch a coach to Disneyland and was forced into and under Masierak’s lorry.

The fatalities, six men and two women, were Mr Joseph, 52, Panneerselvam Annamalai, 63, Rishi Ranjeev Kumar, 27, Vivek Baskaran, 26, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, 32, and her husband Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, 33, Subramaniyan Arachelvan, 58, and his wife Tamilmani Arachelvan, 50.

Four other minibus passengers, including a four-year-old girl, were seriously injured in the collision on the southbound M1, near Newport Pagnell.

Wagstaff, of Derwent Street, Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to eight counts of causing death by careless driving at a previous hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court on September 26.

He was acquitted of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving by a jury today (Wednesday).

Masierak, 32, of Barnards Close, Evesham, Worcestershire, was found guilty yesterday (Tuesday) by unanimous jury of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, at Reading Crown Court.

Louise Attrill, senior crown prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, said Masierak was over the drink-drive limit when he was breathalysed, with witnesses describing seeing him drive the wrong way around a roundabout, driving the wrong way down the M69 slip road and swerving between lanes two and three before crawling in lane three.

She said: “This incident, caused by driver error of one drink driver and the prolonged inattention of another, resulted in a tragic waste of life and could have been avoided.

“This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to be alert when driving.”

Senior investigating officer detective sergeant Gavin Collier, of the joint operations unit for roads policing, said: “This tragedy has permanently devastated the lives of all of those involved and is wholly the responsibility of both the defendants in the case.

“What is so poignant is that this tragedy was completely and utterly avoidable.

“This is not a case about people who drive heavy goods vehicles, but about all those drivers who fix their vehicles on cruise control or use hands free mobile phone devices but then fail to pay proper attention to what is going on in the road in front of them.

“The actions of Mr Masierak were beyond explanation or reason – to drive knowing you’re drunk, to stop your vehicle in the middle of the road – there are no words that can describe such disregard for public safety.”

The pair are due to be sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court on March 23.