Driver who dragged Mingwei Tan under bus ‘thought he had hit a bottle’

A bus driver believed he had run over a bottle or a fox as he dragged a Cambridge University student through Hampstead under his vehicle, a court heard.

Shariar Firouzian, 52, stopped in Pond Street to pick up an elderly woman from outside the Royal Free Hospital after hitting Mingwei Tan as he turned from South End Road, Blackfriars Crown Court was told.

Witness James Gautrey said he heard a “mixture of a bang, a crunch and a thud” and saw a bus grind to a halt outside Marks & Spencer in South End Green.

He admitted he could not be certain it was the bus driven by Firouzian.

Police found a white trainer at the spot and Ms Tan’s body eventually came loose from the N5 night bus near Belsize tube station. Her shoes and socks were dislodged in the crash and her mobile and purse were found scattered along the 825 metres she had been dragged. She suffered “massive internal injuries”.

Bus driver Paul Kenny drove past the 20-year-old’s body minutes later and called the emergency services.

“I slowed down as I passed the bundle of clothes and I also noticed the face of a person,” he said in a statement.

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“It didn’t look real and I thought it was the face of a plastic doll.”

Iranian-born Firouzian told police he thought he had hit a bottle as he turned into Pond Street at 1.45am on September 30, 2010.

When the Singaporean’s body became disentangled from the bus in Haverstock Hill, he thought he had collided with a fox.

Firouzian, of Watford, denies causing death by careless driving. He claimed he was unaware he had hit the third-year medical student until he turned up for work the next evening and was suspended.

The jury, defendant and road collision experts were due to board the same N5 bus yesterday.

Ms Tan had just returned from holiday in Cyprus where she had spent a week lazing on a beach with three other friends from Peterhouse College, Cambridge.

Friend Mike Money, who was studying to become an engineer at the time, had flown back to London with Ms Tan.

In a statement, he said that Ms Tan was unsure how to get to a family friend’s house in West Hampstead when she landed at Gatwick.

She was set to fly to Rome at 6am the same morning.

The trial continues.