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A3 Burpham Ghost Crash (2002)


On 11 December 2002, at least one member of the public reported to the Surrey police that they had seen a car lose control and swerve off the A3 near the emergency slip road to Burpham. When the Police attended the scene they found a car in a ditch, and the remains of the driver, but the accident which had killed him had occurred five months previously. This led to thoughts that the original incident had been a ghostly re-enactment of the earlier crash. Ben Taylor gave the following account in his Daily Mail article 'Did drivers see a ghostly replay of death crash?'

It seemed a routine matter when police received calls from motorists that a car had veered off the A3 with its headlights blazing.

But when officers went to investigate, they found no sign of the vehicle. Indeed, it appeared to have vanished.

A further search was ordered, however, with chilling results.

Just 20 yards from the reported 'crash scene' and buried in twisted undergrowth was the remains of a wrecked car containing the skeleton of a man.

Its lights were off - the car's battery had long since died - and the body was badly decomposed.

Surrey Police said yesterday they believed the crash happened in July this year - and that the driver's body had laid undiscovered for five months. Motorists are now wondering if what they saw was a ghostly apparition of the original crash on the Portsmouth to London road at Burpham, near Guildford, Surrey.

The driver has been identified as a 21-year- old man last seen alive in London on July 16.

A police spokesman said: 'The family have been informed and confirmed that they reported him missing in July.

'We do not yet know why he would have been travelling in Surrey.'

His identity was established after checking the registration number of the E-registered maroon Vauxhall Astra. Police were withholding his name last night. It is understood that they wish to carry out a formal identification using dental records.

Surrey Police were called to the scene at 7.20pm on Wednesday after reports of 'the accident' were phoned in.

When they arrived they found nothing and it was not until officers began poking around in the undergrowth that they discovered the car, nose-down in a ditch, impossible to see from the road.

A police spokesman said last night: 'We believe the car left the road and ended up in the ditch surrounded by trees and undergrowth during July.

'It doesn't appear that any other vehicles were involved.

'It was then the summer months and the car was covered by the trees and undergrowth.

'Although it was only 20 yards from the road it could not be seen and there were no footpaths close to the spot.

'The car had obviously been there for a long time and thousands of motorists will have passed the spot every day.

'Although the car was not clearly visible, it is possible people may have seen it and just not thought to report it.'

Sergeant Russ Greenhouse, of Surrey Police, added: 'The car was discovered as a result of a report from members of the public who thought they saw a car's headlights veering off the road.

'The officers could not identify that collision but they had the presence of mind to search on foot and they found this car.'

The Telegraph gave the following report on the inquest into the crash in an article by Stewart Payne entitled 'Skeleton found five months after crash' (12 August 2003). They do not mention the ghost.

'The skeleton of a motorist was found by his crashed car which lay undiscovered in a ditch beside a busy trunk road for five months, an inquest was told yesterday.

Christopher Chandler, 20, crawled from his Vauxhall Astra, but could not climb the bank of the A3 at Burpham, Surrey, to seek help. His brother reported him missing but police had no information on where to look.

He was last seen drinking with a friend in Hounslow, west London, in July last year, but no one knew that he had then driven into Surrey. It appeared that his car had been obscured by vegetation.

Police officers found the vehicle by chance five months later while searching for evidence of another crash.

The inquest at Woking, Surrey, was told that the driver's door was badly damaged and it was likely that Mr Chandler had crawled out using the passenger door.

Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl, a pathologist, said it was impossible to establish the cause of death, but Mr Chandler had suffered injuries to his right side consistent with a crash.

Pc Stuart Cameron said a call had been made from the dead man's mobile phone an hour after leaving his friend, but it only lasted a second and would not have connected. He said it was impossible to say whether the call was made before or after the crash.

Dr Karin Chandler, the coroner, said Mr Chandler, of Isleworth, west London, had probably died because of the crash but there was no proof.

Verdict: open.

Pete Bryant gives this last account of the story on 14 December 2012 in an article entitles 'A3 ‘ghost crash’ remembered 10 years on''. This article appears on the Get Surrey website and the Surrey Police Blog.

IT was the day after the Surrey Police press team’s Christmas party, and no-one expected to be spending it fielding calls about ghosts.

However, Tuesday December 11th was 10 years to the day since a frenzy of calls about a spooky apparition spotted on the A3 southbound near Guildford welcomed them back to work, giving birth to a ghost story that has gone down in Surrey folklore.

It all began on that dark December Sunday night in 2002 when a member of the public reported seeing a car lose control and leave the A3 around 100 metres before the emergency slip road at Burpham.

Police were called to the scene to search for the wreckage, but were unable to find any trace of a crash – that was until an officer stumbled upon a maroon Vauxhall Astra nose down in a ditch, covered in undergrowth.

There was one irregular detail though – the car had not crashed recently. In fact it had lay undiscovered for five months, confirmed by the additional discovery of a decomposed body nearby.

Hysteria greeted the findings, as it was suggested in the national press that the sighting of the car leaving the road just the night before could only have been a ghostly replay of the fatal crash earlier in the year.

This view was not shared by Surrey Police, with a spokeswoman insisting that the incident had only ever been treated as a regular road traffic collision and the fact the car was obscured by leaves and branches most probably prevented it from being reported earlier.

Even if motorists had spotted the vehicle, she added, they may have assumed it was already being dealt with.

The body was identified from dental records as that of 21-year-old Christopher Brian Chandler from Middlesex, who had been on the run from the Metropolitan Police since July 16 that year. He was wanted for robbery.

One man who will not forget the day in a hurry is Steve Casey, an employee at McAllister’s Recovery, who worked for Maco Recovery Services at the time.

He attended the crash scene the following day to tow the car away, and remembers the skeleton being recovered at the same time.

“The car was badly damaged,” said Steve, who was in his 40s at the time.

“It was written off and rusty, and it was an old car. Someone said afterwards that there might have been a ghost involved, but you aren’t told that at the time. I was just getting on with the job.”

Although he now makes light of the incident a decade on, Steve admitted to being “a bit worried” by the presence of a skeleton during the removal of the car, and said he still remembered what he saw when he drives down the A3 past Burpham.

“I think about it every time,” he added.


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