A Banbury man told a jury he 'had no choice' but to drive on the wrong side of a dual-carriageway which resulted in a fatal head-on crash.
Sagar Taseem, driving a friend’s BMW, and two other cars had been involved in a nine-mile chase from Banbury before the collision on the B4451 near Gaydon which killed an 80-year-old woman from Broughton.
Yesterday (Monday, January 29), a jury at Warwick Crown Court heard the dispute over whether he was being chased or doing the chasing - with prosecutor Simon Davis alleging ‘it was the BMW being the cat.’
Taseem, 26, of Evenlode, Banbury, and his passenger Naqash Hussain, 29, of Prescott Avenue, Banbury, have both pleaded not guilty to causing the death of Elizabeth Roberts by dangerous driving.
Also in the dock is Kieran Flint, 21, of Barley Hill, Banbury, who denies a charge of dangerous driving in a Ford Fiesta over his role earlier in the events of February 15, 2017.
A fourth man, VW Jetta driver Samuel Franklin, 24, of Warkworth Close, Banbury, has pleaded guilty to causing the pensioner’s death by dangerous driving.
Even though he was not involved in the final collision, it was he who had rammed the BMW from behind which led to Taseem then speeding back the wrong way along the dual carriageway.
Mrs Roberts died after the BMW crashed into her daughter Sheila Wilson's Ford Fiesta head-on while waiting to turn onto the M40 at around 5.50pm.
Giving evidence as the trial entered its second week, Taseem said he was in a friend’s BMW, with Hussain in the back, when two cars came up behind him outside an address in Woodfield, Banbury, and started chasing him.
He headed away from the town on the B4100 where he said Flint’s Fiesta clipped the BMW before getting past him and then stopping ahead of him as the Jetta pulled up alongside the Fiesta.
Taseem said that with the road blocked by the two cars, he had to stop, and that Franklin then came towards the BMW with a police-style extendable baton.
He said: “I was panicking. I just wanted to get out of there. I put the BMW in drive and shunted the Fiesta forward a couple of metres. I went past it and scraped it as I went past.”
Asked why he did not get out when he was boxed in, he said: “They would have kicked my head in, they’d have killed me.”
Taseem said he drove off along the B4100 at speed, and ‘just wanted to lose sight of them,’ and at some stage Hussain climbed into the front of the car.
“I went off at some serious speed, trying to get away, and I seen a car coming from behind, overtaking cars, and he was just coming and coming. That was the VW Jetta. I was scared.”
Asked why he did not pull in somewhere, such as a pub or a petrol station, to get help, he said: “It happened so quick, I just wanted to get out of there.
“When we got to Gaydon I took the roundabout on the wrong turning. I couldn’t slow down in time and it seemed easier.”
Taseem said the lights were on red when he made a right turn onto the B4451 dual carriageway, with the Jetta behind him, but there was then another set of red lights for which the traffic in front of him had slowed down.
“I slowed the car down. As I was coming to a stop the Jetta came from behind and hit my rear. It was a pretty loud impact, and the car wasn’t facing forward any more.
“After I got hit, I drove the wrong way. It was panic, I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I thought he could come and finish me off. I was weaving in and out of traffic.
“After Franklin rammed me I panicked and drove the wrong way. I managed to weave between a few cars but saw that the Fiesta was coming towards me and there was a head-on impact.
“My life flashed before my eyes. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I got out, and her daughter got out and said ‘you’ve hurt my mum.’
“I was standing there, then Franklin came running towards us. I wasn’t going to stand there waiting for him to finish me off. Naqash was getting out as well. We ran up the road.”
He added that later, having walked through fields, he got to a road and someone stopped and gave him a lift back to Banbury where he went to the police station.
On Friday, the court heard Taseem's interview with police after handing himself in, where he said he 'had no choice' but to drive on the wrong side of the road and that he was chased by Franklin after the crash.
“The cars just started chasing me. Everywhere I’m turning, they’re turning, and still these cars are coming up behind me.
“We’ve ended up on the Warwick road at Gaydon. First it [Flint’s Fiesta] clipped me to send me off the road.”
The jury has heard there came a stage when Flint stopped his Fiesta in the middle of the busy road, with the Jetta pulling up alongside having come in the opposite direction.
Of that, Taseem said: “At one point the Fiesta managed to get in front of me, trying to slow me down. Then the Jetta comes and is level with him.
“Sam Franklin got out of the Jetta and tried to open the door, but they were locked, and tapped on the window, hitting on the window. It looked like a police truncheon, a long metal bar.
“I’ve had to drive like an idiot to get away. There are ten of them. I gap it through, literally tapping the back of the Fiesta. I’ve had to run a red light at the dual carriageway.
“Then the VW Jetta has come up from behind and has hit me and sent me spinning. I have had no choice but to drive down the wrong side of the dual carriageway.
“There was a head-on collision. They didn’t stop even then, and I had to get out and run away. The driver of the Jetta had got out and chased me.
“I got out and the woman [Mrs Wilson] got out, and I shouted ‘I’m sorry, I’m being chased.’”
Taseem said he ran across a field and eventually came to a main road where he flagged someone down and asked to be dropped off near Banbury police station.
An officer reminded him: “You’re here because you caused the death of somebody.” He replied “That’s why I’ve come forward.”
The trial continues.