A rail worker told how he battled to save a York woman as she was dragged into an moving walkway, a court heard today.

Vincenzo Pratico tried to pull sociology lecturer Sally Baldwin from the mechanism after she fell through a hole into the mechanism.

The accident happened at an Italian railway station in front of her husband and other horrified travellers.

Mr Pratico was dragged into the mechanism as he tried to pull Mrs Baldwin, who lived in York, to safety.

Three directors of OCS, the firm in charge of maintaining the walkway, were charged with manslaughter and negligence and are currently on trial at Rome's central criminal court.

Domenico Leti, 71, and the two managers in charge of maintenance operations, Leonardo Casali, 32, and Luana Lepore, 28, were charged after the accident at Tiburtina railway station, Rome, in October 2003.

Mr Pratico, still on crutches, told the court yesterday he knew something was wrong when he heard a piercing scream.

''I heard a loud scream and I knew instantly something terrible had happened I turned around and saw the lady had fallen through a hole in the walkway.

''I remember shouting at people to press the stop button and they did but nothing happened it just kept moving all the time.'' In tears, he added: ''I feel so guilty about not being able to do any more to save her but I couldn't. I tried my best but there was nothing I could do.

''Ever since that day I have had nightmares, I can't sleep at night. I always think about the woman who I saw die in front of my eyes.

''But there was nothing I could do to save her. I'm not Superman but I tried all I could. The power of the machine was just too strong for me. ''I tried to stop it with my bare hands and broke my wrist then as I tried to pull her I was also dragged in and had my leg caught. The pain was so intense.''

Professor Baldwin, 62, had moved from Scotland to York after divorcing her husband of 30 years.

She had planned to celebrate her birthday with him and another friend in Italy when the tragedy occurred.

The trial was adjourned until next month.