Greedy East Yorkshire haulage boss Michael Holgate jailed for 15 years after M62 horror crash that killed two men after brake fault that would have cost £200 to repair

A haulage boss and a driver have been sentenced to 15 and six years in jail respectively after an “entirely forseeable and wholly avoidable” tragedy left two men dead after a caravan transporter with defective brakes smashed through the central reservation on the M62 and into their car.

Nigel Eley and Jean-Paul Cassidy
Nigel Eley and Jean-Paul Cassidy

Lexus driver Nigel Eley - a devoted father of two young sons - died instantly at the scene on the Ouse Bridge while his passenger Jean-Paul Cassidy suffered a severe brain injury and died nine days later in hospital. Another car, a Mercedes, escaped by a hair’s breadth.

Had the traffic been heavier the consequences would have been “even worse”, with the mobile home the Scania was carrying ending up across the eastern carriageway “like a wall”, Hull Crown Court heard on Tuesday.

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Evidence in the trial of haulage boss Michael Holgate, of Munstead Way, Brough, who was found guilty of four counts, including two of manslaughter through gross negligence, last Friday, estimated the closing speed of the collision at over 100mph. He had pleaded guilty to a fifth health and safety offence in May.

Truck driver Jack Beston, who was 22 at the time, and had been employed by Holgate since he left school, pleaded guilty last October to two offences of causing death by dangerous driving. Beston wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was injured.

Beston, from Driffield, had reported brake defects nine times through a “Navman” system - including on the morning of the collision, April 3, 2018 - but the fault was not resolved.

Dashcam footage from the day showed Beeston had problems with his brakes on four separate occasions - twice almost driving into his escort vehicle.

Slowing down to navigate a traffic island he was recorded exclaiming; "I'm braking, my front wheels are going all over" and later on the Beverley bypass, swearing and saying: "Every time I brake it is trying to drag left."

Mr Justice Fraser said the collision was “practically inevitable and simply a disaster waiting to happen”.

The maintenance system at Holgate's yard was “grossly negligent”, with the Scania’s brakes “not repaired properly, or indeed at all”. The faulty part would have cost just £200 to fix.

In all 80 prohibition notices had been issued against Holgate’s vehicles over a five-year period, including some issued after the deaths in 2018, some related to defective tyres and brakes.

"You would prolong the life of tyres by handcutting treads down to the wire, again something that is contrary to road safety," the Judge said.

He added: “All this demonstrates the culture of dangerousness that pervaded your operations, even after this fatal accident. You had no consideration for the safety of other road users and were interested only in your own profits.”

Holgate’s greed was “the driving force”, refusing to take trucks off the road as it would cut their earning capacity, and only insuring drivers aged over 25, to save money.

The court heard Holgate had a “serious warning” in March 2015 after an accident involving another driver Thomas Moss on the Chichester bypass, whose brakes failed approaching a roundabout, hitting a Nissan Juke, pushing it up and over the crossing and seriously injuring the driver.

Holgate earlier had told Moss to stop and plug and unplug the air hose every 20 to 30 miles to keep the brakes working and threatened him with the sack when he refused.

Moss kept quiet about the airhose and pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention, but later contacted police after hearing about the M62 tragedy and gave evidence at the trial, which the Judge accepted as true.

Holgate’s mechanic at his Hull bodyshop was told to take newer parts off vehicles in for repair and swap them for older parts. “This sums up the business you were running,” the Judge said.

Explaining what the public might view as a disparity in the sentences the Judge said Beston was “far less culpable in overall terms for what happened” only working as a driver and "fearful of losing his job if he did not comply". In Holgate’s case there was “practically no mitigation”.

Beston's counsel, Stephen Robinson, told the court his client had expressed "genuine and deep-seated remorse."

Moving victim personal statements were also read to the court from the families of Mr Eley, the founder of sales and distribution company Northern Lights and Mr Cassidy, his friend and business development manager at Farah Menswear. Both were from Manchester.

Mr Eley's wife said he was her "knight in shining armour", adding: "The backbone of my perfect family has been taken away".

"Selfless, kind and gentle" Mr Cassidy was excited about getting married to his fiancee Lucy and having his own family.