News. Friday 10th January 2003
A Darton man pleaded not guilty to six offences of dangerous driving at Barnsley Magistrates Court on Monday, citing the music played on his in-car stereo system as the reason for his behaviour. Stephen Peter Townsend, 28, of Brummel Avenue, Darton, claimed to have been driving in a normal manner on the southbound carriageway of the M1 between junctions 38 and 36 on the 27th August 2002 prior to coming under the influence of an hypnotic effect created by popular music he listened to. Alone in the car at the time of the incident Townsend had inserted a cassette tape in an effort to keep himself alert. Townsend admitted that he had only slept for two hours the previous night, having been kept awake by the teething cries of his teething daughter.
Townsend said that the Peter Gunn theme had played on the tape, a song popularised in the movie The Blues Brothers and also through the 1980s video game Spy Hunter. Townsend claimed that he had been a devotee of the Spy Hunter game in his early teens, often playing on his Commodore 64 computer for thirty-six hour stretches at a time without a break. The objective of the game is to reach a destination while evading attacks by gangster limousines, helicopter gun-ships, and other hostile vehicles. The defendant stated that on hearing the song, the association, combined with his tired state had induced him to believe that he was inside the Spy Hunter game and that the other vehicles travelling on the carriageway at that time were purposely attempting to prevent him from reaching the Meadowhall shopping centre, where he was planning to buy some new slippers. Townsends initial reaction had been to nudge a BMW 325i pulling alongside to overtake into the central reservation. He had then intentionally opened the passenger door of his Volvo and clothes-lined a motor-cyclist travelling in the slow lane of the motorway.
After a further five miles of mayhem, Police had been alerted to the vehicle by Townsends constant flashing of his headlight beams, in the mistaken belief that he was activating an oil slick dispersal.
Evidence was given by the police that Townsend had evaded them at first, but was eventually caught after leaving the carriageway and driving into a body of water bordering Worsborough Mill wildlife centre, expecting he told officers – his car to turn into a speedboat when he entered the lake.
The case continues and evidence is expected to be given by Gaz Top, former presenter of kids knowledge show How?!, who reviewed the Spy Hunter game on a 1985 edition of Saturday Superstore.