Driver tells of plunge death horror

Leigh Harker
Leigh Harker

The lorry driver who saw a Chorley man plunge to his death from a motorway bridge told an inquest he “still thinks about it every day”.

Scaffolder Mark Pritchard was driving an HGV along the M65 in December 2011 when Leigh Harker, 35, of Clayton Brook, jumped over the railings of the bridge and stood on a concrete ledge.

Mr Pritchard, from Birmingham, told an inquest how the former Walton-le-Dale High School pupil appeared to try to time his jump to fall in the path of the 7.5 tonne lorry but he managed to swerve the vehicle out of the way.

Speaking after Thursday’s inquest at Preston Coroner’s Court, Mr Harker’s sister Michelle Sinclair said she was sorry for Mr Pritchard and his passenger Daniel Gough.

Mother-of-three Mrs Sinclair, 39, of Clayton Brook, said: “I just feel so sorry for them, to hear him say he thinks about it every day. It’s affected a lot more people.”

The inquest heard Mr Harker, of no fixed abode, had led a troubled life, serving time in prison, taking cannabis and suffering from paranoia.

His mother died two years ago and his sister said: “Since then Leigh found life even more difficult.”

The day before his death the Clayton Brook FC player had called at Mrs Sinclair’s house in a manic and irrational state.

She told him to leave as there were children at her home and threatened to phone the police.

He returned hours before his death looking for his father, who was not there.

Just before 10am on December 28, he jumped from the bridge on the A6 Preston Road, and landed on the M65 eastbound, between junction one and two near Walton-le-Dale.

He suffered multiple injuries and was pronounced dead at Royal Preston Hospital just over an hour later.

Mrs Sinclair added the family, including brother Gregg Williams and sister Kelly Anne, had been touched by the community of Clayton Brook who had rallied round and raised money for a memorial bench.

Kelly Anne said: “He’s at peace with his mum now.”

Dep coroner Simon Jones recorded a verdict of suicide.