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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Pilot charged over crashed car
An airline pilot wrote off a 12,000 car after taking it for a test drive without permission, a court has heard.

John Fox-Smythe, 45, crashed the new Mini into a field within moments of leaving the Lamb Inn near Horsham, West Sussex, Mid Sussex Magistrates' Court was told.

He then refused five times to give a blood sample in hospital to a police officer who suspected him of drink driving.

Mr Fox-Smythe, of Faygate Lane, Rusper, Horsham, denies aggravated vehicle taking and failing to provide a specimen for analysis.

Followed ambulance

The court heard that the car's owner, Julie Langham, had told Mr Fox-Smythe he could circle the car park after he admired her company car - but was astonished when he drove off.

About half an hour later she followed an ambulance 300 yards down the road, where she found police and paramedics at the scene of a crash.

Mr Fox-Smythe had lost control on a bend, overturned and ploughed into a field, the court was told.

He was treated for an 11-inch cut to his head and other injuries at East Surrey Hospital.

Brian Noel, defending, said Mrs Langham must have given Mr Fox-Smythe permission to "take it for a spin", but she insisted she would have gone in the car too if that had been the case.

'Memory blank'

Pc Simon Rhodes told the court he suspected Mr Fox-Smythe had been drinking because the pilot's speech was slurred and his breath smelled of alcohol.

But the court was told he refused to give a blood sample, saying he did not understand.

He later admitted in a police interview he had drunk two-and-a-half glasses of wine but said his memory of the accident was blank because of concussion, the court heard.

Dr Dominic Harrison, of East Surrey Hospital, said in his opinion the pilot had been fit to give a sample.

The case continues.

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