AN ELDERLY and 'confused' driver caused a motorway pile-up last Christmas in which two people died.

Former driving instructor Bernard Guile, from Warrington, had been trying to make the journey to his son's house in Sussex from Warrington, which should have taken five hours, but he had got lost on the way.

An inquest at Oxfordshire Coroner's Court yesterday, Thursday, heard the 'confused and lost' 77-year-old's BMW was stationary or very slow moving on the M40 after driving for more than 12 hours at the time of the crash.

Oxford historian Mark Whittow and mechanic Shane Stokes died after the crash at 11.35pm on December 23, as reported by our sister title The Oxford Mail.

Several witnesses reported swerving to avoid his car which had stopped in the inside lane without displaying hazard lights on an unlit stretch of motorway near Banbury.

Dr Whittow, 60, who was about to begin a new job as Provost of Oriel College, was travelling northbound when his Volkswagon Polo hit Mr Guile's car from behind.

Warrington Guardian:

Dr Mark Whittow was killed in the crash. Pic: Oriel College

After the initial collision his car was left facing sideways on the carriageway and it was then hit again by Mr Stokes' Volkswagon Passat causing it to flip onto its roof.

Mr Stokes, 29, from Warwick, was then hit from behind by a van, causing him to career into a safety barrier.

In a statement read out in court, his girlfriend, who was a passenger in the car at the time, described seeing the car suddenly appear in front of them and shouting out in shock before the impact.

Tony Reading, a forensic collision investigator with Hampshire Police, said: "People driving on the motorway do not expect to come across a stationary vehicle.

"All you would have seen is two red lights ahead. It would have been very difficult to judge the speed it was going until you are close."

When asked why other drivers were able to swerve around Mr Guile and Dr Whittow was not, the officer said they had just had 'better luck'.

He added: "He certainly started to swerve around him.

"Another foot to the right and he might have missed him."

Mr Guile, who has not explained why he had £1,000 in his car at the time, escaped with minor injuries but police on the scene described him as being very confused.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in June and will not face charges because of his condition. He now lives in a care home.

Family said he had shown signs of memory loss before the crash but they had never been concerned about his ability to drive.

Dr Whittow's widow, Helen, thanked those who stopped and tried to help her husband.

She said: "The university has lost an amazing historian, my children have lost their father and I have lost the person who filled my life with interests, love and fun."