Footballer fled after fatal car crash

Last updated at 16:08 05 August 2004

Premiership soccer star Lee Hughes refused to give police a detailed account of his whereabouts in the 36 hours after he allegedly caused a fatal road crash in his £100,000 super-charged sports car, a jury heard today.

The West Bromwich Albion striker disappeared following the collision near his home in Meriden, near Coventry, prompting a nationwide police appeal to him.

He eventually turned himself into Coventry's main police station, but at first declined to say where he was in the aftermath of the tragedy in November last year.

Hughes's account of the crash, which claimed the life of married father-of-four Douglas Graham, emerged during the trial at Coventry Crown Court where the 28-year-old denies causing death by dangerous driving.

In an interview with two West Midlands Police detectives, Hughes said he "panicked" and, still in shock, fled the scene of the accident with his childhood friend and passenger Adrian Smith.

The pair ran towards the nearby A45 dual carriageway, but when pressed to say where they went next, he said: "Do I have to answer? I would rather not say, really."

Pressed by Detective Constable Russell Nottingham, Hughes admitted he went to Mr Smith's home in Smethwick, more than 20 miles away.

"Are you prepared to say how you got to Smethwick?" DC Nottingham asked the married father-of-two, to which he replied: "No."

Lost control

Hughes claimed he lost control of his two-door Mercedes CL55 coupe when the brakes locked as he rounded a bend, ploughing into a Renault Scenic shortly after midnight on November 23.

The impact killed 56-year-old Mr Graham, of Eastern Green, Coventry, almost immediately and severely injured his wife Maureen as well as driver Albert Frisby.

Hughes said: "I put my brakes on to stop and the brakes locked. Then I lost control of the vehicle, lost control and hit another vehicle.

"I hit my head on the sun visor, I hit my head and there was panic. I just panicked and ran off. I didn't know what to do, I was just so scared."

Asked why he ran from the scene and then effectively vanished, he replied: "I just found out someone has passed away and I just, I just don't know. It just shocks you."

The footballer said he knew that under the law accidents had to be reported to police within 24 hours, but added: "It's just shock in my head. I didn't know what to do."

Asked if he was over the legal drink-drive limit after drinking two Jack Daniels and coke at local pubs, Hughes insisted: "No, definitely not."

DC Nottingham also asked the player if he felt driving at an estimated 50mph in spitting rain on a wet, unlit road was the "correct speed", to which Hughes replied: "I thought it was OK."

The jury heard how earlier that evening the footballer had played in Albion's then Division One 0-0 home draw with Reading before heading over to his mother's house in Smethwick and picking up Mr Smith at his nearby home.

Drinking whisky

The pair then went to two pubs near his home where he drank two whiskies, took a sip of a third and did not touch a fourth bought for him.

Hughes invited a group back to his home to enjoy more drinks at his private bar and play pool and was driving Mr Smith and three new acquaintances along Pickford Grange Lane when the collision occurred.