Jilted husband led police on drug-fuelled M56 chase

Reporter:

Steve Creswell

A JILTED husband evaded police in a 120mph cocaine-fuelled car chase – but later surrendered after climbing an electricity pylon and dialling 999.

Lee James Florence, 28, had been out driving his BMW in torrential rain on the M56 near Chester at 4am on October 5 this year.

His marriage of 11 years had ended and he had taken an ounce of cocaine, leaving him “on a different planet”.

Chester Crown Court heard yesterday that his car had been flagged up by a police automatic number plate recognition device as someone had reported concerns for his welfare.

When a patrol car pulled in behind him on the motorway, Florence – a roofer by trade - “put his foot down” and accelerated to 120mph.

Officers gave chase but soon abandoned the pursuit due to the dangerous weather conditions and large pools of standing water on the road.

However, a short time later he called the police from the top of an electricity pylon and offered to surrender as long as no police dogs were involved.

He was located soon after with cuts and scrapes across his torso that he had sustained while climbing though brambles and barbed wire.

Florence, of Erw Faen, Tregarth, Gwynedd, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and refusing to provide a sample of blood.

The judge, Mr Recorder Gibson, sentenced him to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years. He must also carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and was disqualified from driving for two years.

Outlining the case, prosecutor Mandy Nepal said an officer in an unmarked police car wanted to pull Florence over to check on his well-being after concerns were raised.

Another patrol car joined the motorway to assist, indicating for the BMW to stop.

“However, the vehicle increased its speed and failed to stop,” Miss Nepal told the court. “The officers noticed the speed had increased to 120mph.

“What was of concern was the weather was particularly poor; it was raining heavily, which reduced visibility considerably, and there were large areas of standing water. The pursuit was deemed not justified and officers discontinued.”

An hour later a call was taken by a 999 operator from the defendant, who said he had climbed to the top of a pylon.

“He asked the operator to ‘call off the dogs’,” Miss Nepal said.

“He said he was extremely scared of dogs and would surrender provided there are no dogs in the vicinity.”

Officers then found him and he walked towards them with his hands in the air, before removing his t-shirt to reveal “fresh cuts and scratches”.

“He said: ‘I’m on the edge. ‘'ve had an ounce of coke’,” Miss Nepal told the court.

In his police interview, Florence described the breakdown of the relationship with his wife, with whom he had two children and who had a new partner.

He had also lost his grandmother recently and was living in a hotel.

Chris Hunt, defending, said that despite a small number of previous convictions, Florence had been a hard-working family man until his marriage ended.

“Things got on top of him and unfortunately he took solace in cocaine,” Mr Hunt said.

“This was a very bizarre incident. It makes no sense logically.”

Florence had gone on a “cocaine binge”, he said, and then panicked when he saw police cars following him.

“He's paranoid and is thinking someone is after him so he puts his foot down,” Mr Hunt told the court.

“He then calls 999. He's clearly on a different planet.”

He stressed his client had “sincere remorse and regret” about the incident.

“He behaved in a most unusual and uncharacteristic manner,” Mr Hunt added.

Email:

steve.creswell@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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