Liverpool men face jail after 'staging motorway crash'

Southwark Crown Court Photo: PA

Three Liverpool men face jail after admitting that they staged a motorway "crash for cash" insurance scam on a coach trip to a night at the dog track.

Everton FC fans Liam Gray, 26, and Ben Carberry, 21, with Kevin Hamilton, 36, orchestrated a minor collision between a Renault Megane car and a coach carrying 30 passengers from Liverpool to Manchester's Belle Vue greyhound racing track.

Their aim was to claim up to £150,000 for whiplash in insurance claims, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

After the crash, which happened on a roundabout between the East Lancashire Road and the M57 motorway, and which the coach driver did not notice, passengers on the coach complained they had suffered personal injuries.

The passengers then asked to go back to Bootle, Liverpool, and the coach driver watched on "amused" as they ran across a dual carriageway to go to the pub, it is alleged.

All 30 passengers went on to make insurance claims for whiplash after the incident on December 9 2011.

But investigators later found a message on a phone belonging to law student Carberry in which he offered to pay "a grand" for "someone to do a crash", according to prosecutors.

The plot, organised and arranged by Liam Gray, Ben Carberry and Kevin Hamilton, was intended to allow fraudulent damages claims for personal injury, the prosecution says.

Liam Gray obtained the car, with insurance, for Kevin Hamilton, while Ben Carberry arranged the coach and the group booking to the dog track, then Hamilton purposefully drove the car into the coach.

Carberry was Gray's contact on the coach, prosecutors say.

The two became friends through travelling to Everton Football Club and meeting at its game, according to the prosecution, while Gray knew Hamilton as he had lived close to him at a previous address.

Gray, of First Avenue, Fazakerley, Carberry, of Old Hall Street, Liverpool city centre, and Hamilton, of Asser Road, Norris Green, each admitted one count of conspiring to commit fraud together with others unknown when they appeared at Southwark Crown Court.

A fourth suspect, Joe Hindley, 22, of Halcombe Road, West Derby, was charged but found not guilty after the prosecution offered no evidence against him.

The prosecution says Carberry sent an undated text to another passenger on the coach saying: "Need someone to do a crash. Do you know anyone? Paying a grand."

Carberry, it is said, had not missed an Everton home or away game in years and regularly arranged coaches for travelling fans.

On this trip, the prosecution says, he paid a #50 deposit up front then paid coach driver Paul Woodruff the remainder of the fee when he picked up the men, all white and aged between 18 and 25, at The Mons pub in Bootle.

Twenty minutes into the journey, Mr Woodruff slowed down to give way at a roundabout and, as he continued on to it, passengers shouted for him to stop.

Having pulled over, Mr Woodruff got off and saw Hamilton and a man alleged to be Gray, who pulled a hoodie over his head and walked away, the prosecution says.

Mr Woodruff saw that there was minor damage to the vehicles and exchanged details with Hamilton.

He later gave his passengers a piece of paper on which to write their details if they were injured.

But he noted that all the passengers on the coach wrote their names to say they were injured, then found it amusing when they all ran across the dual carriageway and into the pub after arriving back in Bootle.

Unemployed Hamilton later claimed he was driving to see his cousin to deliver Christmas presents when the collision happened.

He told police he crashed into the coach at 30mph because he was distracted by the car's fuse box, which was attached with Blu Tack and had fallen off.

Hamilton later told police that Gray bought the Megane for him for about #300 and arranged the insurance after he had asked for help with this because he was not confident on the phone and did not know how to use the internet, even though he had a Facebook account.

When the men were arrested, gas mains worker Mr Hindley admitted that the collision was "pre-arranged and staged", according to prosecutors.

The 30 claims for whiplash were worth up to £5,000 each, bringing the cost up to a maximum of £150,000.

The three men will appear in court at a later date for sentencing.