HUGHES 'DRIVING LIKE MADMAN', CLAIM
West Brom striker Lee Hughes had driven "like a madman" moments before he allegedly caused a fatal accident in his £100,000 sports car, a jury heard on Tuesday.
Motorist Deborah Vallance claimed the 28-year-old climbed out of the wreckage of his Mercedes CL55 coupe near his home in Meriden, Coventry, and
said: "I can't believe what has happened."
The 28-year-old forward denies causing death by dangerous driving but has admitted failing to stop after an accident and failing to report an accident.
Mrs Vallance told the trial at Coventry Crown Court how she watched the silver Mercedes allegedly round a bend on the wrong side of the road "at some speed" before the impact with a Renault Scenic, which was travelling ahead of her Ford Escort estate.
The collision spun the Renault 180 degrees and catapulted it across the road, killing father-of-four Douglas Graham, 56, almost instantly and severely injuring his wife, Maureen, and driver Albert Frisby.
"The only way I can describe it, to be honest, is that he was driving like a madman," Mrs Vallance said.
"It looked as if it was on the wrong side of the road. It just hit with such an impact. I don't think it had time to brake."
Mrs Vallance pulled over and raced to the Scenic as smoke poured from its engine.
She tried to help the four occupants, with Mr Graham bleeding heavily and Mr Frisby trapped by the wheel and dashboard.
Shouting for help, she then saw a man matching the footballer's description climb out of the Mercedes.
Mrs Vallance continued: "All I can remember is the driver getting out of the car and putting his hands on his head and bending down and saying: 'I can't believe what has happened, I was only doing 30mph'.
"I just remember saying: 'There was no way you were doing 30mph'."
But Mrs Vallance's evidence was challenged by defence counsel David Fish QC, who suggested she fabricated the exchange because it was not included in her statement to police hours after the accident.
"There was no such conversation, was there?" Mr Fish said.
"There was. You forget things and they come back," Mrs Vallance replied.
The court has heard how Hughes ran away from the crash in Pickford Grange Lane in the early hours of Sunday, November 23 and turned himself in to police 36 hours later.
The prosecution claim Hughes fled to dodge a breath test, having spent the evening at two local pubs, though Hughes claims he had drunk only two Jack Daniels and took a sip of a third.
He had invited four friends back to his home where he had a bar and pool table when the crash happened.
In police interview, the player told officers the brakes on his vehicle, which had a highly advanced braking system, locked and he lost control.
Hughes sat in the dock at the back of the court just yards away from the public gallery where his club manager, Gary Megson, was among those watching the trial.
The striker has scored more than 100 goals since making his league debut for Kidderminster Harriers in the 1995 season.
He has also played for Coventry City and is currently enjoying his second spell with the Baggies, who won promotion to football's top flight last season.
The court later heard that in the last of the two local pubs Hughes visited, the Poacher's Retreat, he spent about £80 on two rounds of spirits and beers for a large group of drinkers celebrating England's win over Australia in the Rugby World Cup final.
Barmaid Carol McKenzie said she did not see Hughes have a drink himself,
adding: "He was the perfect gentleman - you don't see too many of them around."
Caroline Hicks, a former barmaid at the Queen's Head, where Hughes had been drinking earlier in the evening, said she served him a double Jack Daniels and Coke.
Licensee Caroline O'Neill told the court she also served Hughes a Jack Daniels and Coke, but could not remember what measure of the whisky she poured.
Richard Williams, one of Hughes' back seat passengers, appeared to endorse the defendant's account of the crash when he told the jury he thought the wheels of the car had locked before impact.
Mr Williams said he was initially happy with the player's driving, but then felt he was "accelerating more than I was comfortable with".
He added: "As we came to the bend, we started to brake. I think that the wheels locked but I am not quite sure."
The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.