Wiltshire

Gamekeeper 'drove Land Rover' at Army helicopter

Malcolm Hughes
Image caption Malcolm Hughes is accused of driving his Land Rover at an Army helicopter

A gamekeeper could have killed two Army helicopter pilots when he drove his Land Rover straight at the low flying aircraft, a court has been told.

The pilot of a squirrel helicopter avoided disaster when he saw Malcolm Hughes' car driving towards him.

Lt Andrew Higgins was flying just 10ft above a field as he prepared to carry out a manoeuvre in Pewsey, Wiltshire.

Mr Hughes, 61, of Raffin Lane, Pewsey, denies acting in a manner likely to endanger aircraft. The case continues.

Lt Higgins was flying with trainee pilot Bombardier Henry Luck when he spotted Mr Hughes on 9 December 2009.

Prosecutor Justin Gau told jurors at Salisbury Crown Court: "They saw the defendant's Land Rover driving underneath the helicopter itself.

'Intentionally driven'

"It remained there and then drove off a few yards and the defendant was seen gesticulating angrily and making signs that the vehicle should depart.

"It was clear and quite intentional the Land Rover had been driven at the helicopter."

Mr Gau added that had the helicopter been hit by the car "a fatal crash would have occurred".

The helicopter had taken off from Middle Wallop airbase in Hampshire on a route which was used by the Army Air Corps every three months.

Image caption Lt Higgins told the court he saw Mr Hughes' Land Rover beneath his helicopter

As the helicopter approached the field, Mr Gau said, Lt Higgins dropped to 20ft and then carried out safety checks before dropping to 5ft.

It was as the helicopter descended to 5ft that the Land Rover was driven towards them and they had to take evasive action, Mr Gau said.

Mr Hughes maintained he had not got closer than 300 metres and was only trying to get the aircraft's serial number.

"What we say he was doing was one step further than taking their details - he was telling them to get off his land."

Giving evidence, Lt Higgins said he was just about to descend to 5ft when his colleague raised the alarm.

Driver gesticulated

"He suddenly said stop at about 10ft as we started to descend," the officer said.

"As soon as he said stop I looked to the direction he was looking and about half a second later I saw a Land Rover driving underneath the helicopter.

"It moved forward towards the other side of the field and stopped and the occupant gesticulated for us to depart."

But under cross-examination, Stewart Patterson, representing Hughes, suggested to Lt Higgins that he had not looked properly before descending.

He said: "If you had been keeping a proper look out before the last descent you would have seen it?"

Lt Higgins replied: "Yes, in those circumstances."

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