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Survivor of Moray five-death A96 crash furious over jailed tourist's 'secret extradition'

By Lewis McBlane

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A WOMAN who suffered life-changing injuries in a horrifying crash near Keith which killed her partner and four others said "all authorities have stopped caring about victims", after the Italian driver jailed over the smash was “secretly” extradited.

Morag Smith, along with sister Laura, holds a picture of her and her late partner Evelyn...Picture: Digby Brown
Morag Smith, along with sister Laura, holds a picture of her and her late partner Evelyn...Picture: Digby Brown

Morag Smith, 44, was driving home from line dancing with partner Evalyn Collie (69) and two friends – Ted Reid (63) and Audrey Appleby (70) – when her Nissan X-Trail was struck head-on by tourist Alfredo Ciociola after his rented Fiat minibus veered into the wrong side of the A96 near Keith.

Morag, from Aberchirder, suffered multiple open fractures all over her body and her three passengers died.

Morag with Evelyn, who she said was "my whole world"...Picture: Morag Smith
Morag with Evelyn, who she said was "my whole world"...Picture: Morag Smith

Ciociola’s wife Concetta was seriously injured and his four-year-old son Lorenzo died. His second son Frederico survived.

Also in the minibus was friend Francesco Patane – who was injured and whose wife Frances Saliba died.

The Italian was jailed for three years after being convicted of careless driving but, due to time served on remand and an extradition deal, he has now returned to Italy.

Speaking for the first time since the 2018 crash, Morag said: “In the last five years I’ve stayed quiet and trusted the justice system to deliver – but it hasn’t.

“In early June I got an FYI letter from the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) about Ciociola’s secret extradition and that’s what made me feel like I have to speak up as the SPS didn’t make this deal, the Crown did, so the Crown should have to justify it.

“When does the criminal system consider what’s fair to survivors and bereaved families rather than just debate what’s to be done with guilty people?

“Every victim deserves to know they matter and the fairest way to do that is ensure the person responsible is sentenced fairly – the crash happened here so Ciociola should serve time here.

“What is to stop Italian authorities giving Ciociola an early release because he’s on home soil? Will Scottish officials actually go there and check he’s locked up until November 7 when I’ve been told he’s to be released?

“I know Ciociola suffered his own loss but he’s responsible for five deaths and it’s not much to expect him to spend time in a Scottish cell before getting to see his loved ones.

"Because I’ll never again get to see mine.”

Laura (left) had to tell sister Morag she was her car's only survivor, while she was still in a hospital bed...Picture: Digby Brown
Laura (left) had to tell sister Morag she was her car's only survivor, while she was still in a hospital bed...Picture: Digby Brown

Ciociola – originally charged with dangerous driving – was convicted of causing the deaths by driving carelessly in November 2022 following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A jury convicted him of the lower charge after ruling he failed to pay proper attention and drove into the opposing carriageway – he was jailed the following month at the High Court in Livingston.

The smash left Morag with multiple open fractures on both arms, lacerations to her left leg, a snapped right knee cap, multiple spine disc fractures and an abdominal tear that needed 11 hours of emergency surgery at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI).

After the surgery, it fell to Morag’s sister Laura Kewley to deliver the heartbreaking news that she was the sole survivor from her car – moments before seeing Ciociola laughing in the ward.

The 37-year-old stable worker recalled: “Morag had been in hospital since early Friday morning, but ARI staff told me to say nothing until after the surgery. So it wasn’t until the Saturday I could tell her.

“There was just tears and disbelief. Here was Morag – completely unable to move, wrapped in bandages and hooked up to machines – and I had to tell her everyone had died.

"It was hellish.

“After surgery, Morag was moved from high dependency to orthopaedics and that’s when I saw him [Ciociola] come out of the elevator in a wheelchair, with nothing but a cut on his leg, laughing with other people like nothing had happened.

“It boiled my blood. And I knew it was him because the police told us Italian tourists were involved and he was the only other Italian person around.”

Morag added: “Hearing everyone was gone didn’t sink in straight away as I was still in shock and on morphine but later that night it really hit me.

“Evalyn was my whole world. She died three days away from our eight-year anniversary.

"Ted was like a father to me as well.”

Laura said the physical and emotional blows left Morag in a depressive state, as she was crying all day and not eating or drinking as she dealt with shock, pain and grief all at once.

This worsened when police cautioned Morag at her bedside.

Laura added: “The ward called us to say the police had arrived, so I went to ARI as fast as I could and found Morag in an even worse state.

"She was just told her partner and friends had died and now she thought the caution meant she was somehow responsible – which was not true as the trial proved.

“Yet Ciociola was never cuffed and was allowed to roam the hospital. I complained to 101 and within 10 minutes an officer called me and apologised.”

Morag’s injuries forced her to give up her job as a lead stewardess on the Stena Spey drilling rig in the North Sea, where she oversaw accommodation for offshore workers, but she is able to continue her way of life after Digby Brown Solicitors helped her recover lost earnings before the criminal trial.

But Morag admits the actions of the jury still weighs on her mind.

She said: “I’m still in the home I created with Evalyn, and everything around me reminds me of her.

"So I find myself living for Evalyn now – like she always wanted a rockery in the garden, so I’ve now put one in and that’s like a special memorial to her.

“Now some time has passed I do have a massive feeling of disbelief when I think about the jury reducing his charge to careless driving.

"I think they got this so wrong and I think the judge was even shocked about it, as I recall him mentioning during sentencing about what he was now 'required to do' given the jury’s decision.

“That crash inflicted physical and emotional pain like nothing else I’ve ever felt and now it just feels like all authorities have stopped caring about victims and the effects of their decisions.”

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