A LORRY driver who killed three people in a horrific motorway crash was using his mobile phone to navigate between adult dating sites, a court heard. 

Durham Crown Court was told this morning how Ion Nicu Onut, 41, had been editing his profile and buying credits before the collision on the A1(M) at Bowburn, on July 15 last year.

Two lorries and four cars were involved in the crash that claimed the lives of David Daglish, 57, and Elaine Sullivan, 59, from Seaham, and Paul Mullen, 51, of Washington.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

David Daglish and Elaine Sullivan, with Paul Mullen, right

Several people were also injured in the crash, on the northbound carriageway near junction 61, and one of the lorries caught fire.

Prosecuting, Nick Dry said: "He was utterly engrossed in his internet activity with the pursuit of sexual activity while in control of an HGV."

Read more: police release footage of fatal crash

He was said to have shown a 'flagrant disregard' for the rules of the road and put others in 'great danger'.

The court was told Onut used two websites at speeds never dropping lower than 50mph.

Witnesses said they thought he had fallen asleep as he weaved from the motorway on to the hard shoulder and back again.

He ploughed into stationary traffic causing the vehicle in front to explode in a fireball as it became trapped under his cab.

The court was told his victims were killed instantly.

In a victim personal statement Paul Mullen's daughter, Orlaigh, said: "I miss him coming home every Friday night and shouting 'hello' as he came through the door and giving us a big hug.

"I always thought he was invincible. He was such as strong character."

Onut of Galashiels, Scotland, admitted three counts of causing death by dangerous driving at an earlier court hearing in December.

Richard Bloomfield, mitigating, said his client understood the seriousness of his actions and wished to apologise to everyone who had been affected. 

Judge James Adkin has adjourned the sentencing hearing to consider his verdict.