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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 21:51 GMT
Buck denies inventing pill story
Peter Buck
Guitarist Peter Buck (left) said he was confused
REM guitarist Peter Buck has said he was too "foggy" to explain he had taken a sleeping pill when arrested by police after an alleged drunken rampage.

Mr Buck has denied inventing a tale about taking the pill to counter accusations about a string of "bizarre and out-of-character" incidents attributed to him during the journey.

The 45-year-old allegedly assaulted two cabin crew after "ransacking" the first-class cabin of the British Airways flight.

I felt scared, kind of terrified, kind of foggy

Peter Buck
He insisted his account of taking a tablet with a glass of wine at the start of the flight was true.

Apart from being unable to remember the rest of the 10-hour Seattle to Heathrow trip, he said he had also forgotten to mention the pill while being questioned.

Questioned by David Bate QC, prosecuting, the musician said that was why he had told police he had not taken any medication.

Mr Buck has described being convinced the bright lights overhead in his cell had meant he was recovering from a heart attack in a "weird Disneyland hotel".

Difficult situation

He told west London's Isleworth Crown Court: "I felt scared, kind of terrified, kind of foggy."

Questioned whether he had been too frightened to tell the truth, he replied: "I was not lying.

You have invented this in order to explain what would otherwise be attributable to drunkenness

David Bate QC
"I was just trying to deal with a very difficult situation."

"I did not know exactly what was going through my mind at the time.

"I do not think I was too frightened to tell the truth."

Mr Bate countered: "Why be economical with the truth about the medication?"

"I do not know," the musician told him.

The barrister then said: "You did not take any medication.

"You have invented this in order to explain what would otherwise be attributable to drunkenness."

"That is not so," the guitarist maintained.

The jury has been told that Mr Buck's defence relies partly on being a victim of mistaken identity after becoming confused with his tour manager, Robert Whittaker.

'Yellow card'

The other prong of his case is based on a condition called non-insane automatism allegedly brought on by the Ambien sleeping tablet and alcohol.

Professor Ian Hindmarch, the final witness of the day, told the court that a single Ambien tablet can be "a bit of a monster" if the sleep pattern is interrupted.

The University of Surrey professor, an expert on the effects of drugs on human behaviour, said clinical trials under such circumstances had produced a variety of side effects.

Subjects experienced confusion, forgetfulness, loss of balance and "bizarre behaviour".

Mr Hindmarch said there had been recorded incidents of personality changes, and that "underlying aggression" could be brought to the surface.

Asked what effect alcohol would have on someone who had taken an Ambien pill, Professor Hindmarch responded it would "enhance and magnify" the symptoms.

Strange behaviour

Apart from his alleged violence, cabin staff aboard the 747 have spoken of him trying to load a CD into a hostess trolley, upending it and sending a cascade of crockery and food across the floor, and then attempting to slip a knife up his sleeve as he helped clear up the mess.

At another stage, it was claimed, Mr Buck had to be pulled away from an exit door after announcing he wanted to "go home", before swearing at captain Tom Payne when presented with a "yellow card" warning him to change his behaviour or face arrest.

Mr Buck denies one charge of being drunk on the aircraft in April, two counts of common assault involving head steward Mario Agius and steward Holly Ward, and one charge of damaging BA crockery.

The case continues.

See also:

18 Mar 02 | England
REM star 'behaved like lout'
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