A HUGE manhunt was under way last night for a gang of cowardly car thieves who first stopped, then raced off after causing a crash, leaving a man to die in flames and putting a five-year-old girl and her family in hospital.
Their stolen grey Audi A3 was overtaking a row of four or five cars on the wrong side of the road causing the family’s BMW to swerve and plough into the dead man’s Peugeot 206. Emergency services were unable to do anything to save the occupant.
The traumatised child and two others in the BMW were rescued and are still being treated in hospital.
The grief stricken father of the dead victim – who was not immediately named by police – was last night too distraught to talk.
Debris from the crash and the charred remains of the innocent victim’s Peugeot were strewn across Maybury Road in East Craigs which was closed off for most of yesterday.
Sickened detectives have launched a major investigation saying “significant resources” had been deployed to catch those responsible.
DCI Paul Grainger said: “It’s a traumatic time for both families. One person has died in tragic circumstances and a five-year-old child and her family have suffered injuries.”
“It was real recklessness on the part of the people driving the Audi. It was a really dangerous piece of driving.”
“These people were going about their business in a perfectly normal way. It’s purely the actions of the driver of the Audi that have caused this. We’d ask them to come and speak to police and explain what happened.
“The driver of the Audi has stopped briefly and is fully aware of what happened and then driven off with no attempt to help or get assistance from police. They have been aware of the seriousness of the accident their reckless driving has caused.”
Officers in high visibility vests were still at the scene for much of yesterday while forensic teams carried out painstaking work at the scene looking for clues and combing the nearby area.
Giant metal screens were used to shield the area from view as recovery work was carried out, while huge tailbacks caused traffic gridlock in the area for most of the day.
Investigators piecing together events revealed that around 12.30am yesterday, the Audi was seen travelling at high speed from the Barnton area towards the Maybury Roundabout when the car drove along the chevron area to overtake a row of traffic. As the Audi approached the roundabout, it headed into the opposing carriageway, causing the BMW X5 to swerve and collide with the Peugeot 206 travelling in the opposite direction.
The Peugeot burst into flames which firefighters battled to put out but the driver tragically died.
A 25-year-old man, 22-year-old woman and five-year-old girl in the BMW were all taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, where they continue to be treated for their injuries.
The 1.6 litre petrol Audi A3 sped away and was later found abandoned in Lochgelly Road, Cowdenbeath, near to the local ambulance depot, at around 3.50am.
Police are also looking to trace the driver of a silver hatchback believed to have been travelling “in convoy” with the Audi on Queensferry Road moments before the crash. DCI Grainger said there was “nothing to suggest they were racing each other.”
The Audi A3 had been stolen from a house in Liberton on April 17 and officers are trying to establish where it has been since. Police are understood to have already spoke to drivers of several other vehicles overtaken by the Audi.
“At this time we believe the stolen Audi A3 has been driven in a dangerous and reckless manner, which has caused this collision to take place in which a person has died,” said DCI Grainger.
“Those within this vehicle have then failed to stop and it appears they have thereafter travelled into Fife.
“We have dedicated significant resources to this inquiry and while we have now recovered the Audi, the driver and anyone else within the car are yet to be traced.
“As part of this investigation we are keen to know if anyone has seen the stolen Audi A3 being driven or in unusual or suspicious circumstances in Edinburgh or elsewhere since 17 April 2018.
“We are also keen to trace the occupants of a silver-coloured hatchback car, which is believed to have been travelling in convoy with the Audi and is also believed to have headed into Fife.I would ask that anyone who can help us trace these individuals to contact police immediately.”
Chief Inspector David Happs said: “We recognise the impact this incident has had on the local community, not only in relation to the traffic issues, but due to the harrowing nature in which a person has died. While Road Policing Officers and CID conduct their respective investigations, local resources will be conducting door-to-door inquiries within the Barnton and East Craigs areas to speak with the public and hopefully gather information.
“Rest assured, we are treating this with the utmost seriousness and will utilise all available resources at our disposal to identify all of those involved.”
Residents whose homes overlook the scene reacted with shock yesterday and labelled the route a “rat run.” Some reported hearing and seeing cars race around the corner of Queensferry Road into Maybury Road.
Resident Thelma Jones said: “They come round the corner and put their foot down. I must say, it’s such a busy road, I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents. I’m really sorry to hear someone has been killed – that’s horrendous.
“They’re going to build 600 houses in the field and the road is extremely busy as it is.
The tragedy comes five years after 30-year-old Billy Casement was killed on the same stretch of road. The father-of-two was being driven in friend Darren Luke’s souped-up Subaru Impreza at 74mph in the 40mph zone on the wrong side of the road when it hit a car and a van. He was later jailed for three years.