Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Army Ambush Skills Used to Dodge Police; Driver Led Patrol Cars on High-Speed Chase

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Army Ambush Skills Used to Dodge Police; Driver Led Patrol Cars on High-Speed Chase

Article excerpt

Byline: By Chloe Griffiths

AN Army driver trained to avoid ambushes and bombs used his skills to dodge police while on a high-speed chase after threatening to kill his wife.

Lance Corporal Mark Garthwaite was employed as a bodyguard and specialist driver in Iraq - trained to protect his commanding officer from roadside bombs and ambushes.

But the 30-year-old used his expertise to lead police on a lengthy pursuit.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the non-commissioned officer had doused himself and the car in petrol while racing away from police at speeds of up to 100mph, demonstrating "considerable skill" to avoid hitting other cars.

Police were initially alerted at noon on August 8, after a distressed Garthwaite threatened his wife of seven years, Clare.

He went round to a family member's house in Boldon Colliery where she was staying with their four children and threatened to smash the door down.

Garthwaite, who has served his country for 12 years and has an impeccable record, then claimed he would kill her, before saying he would commit suicide. He was carrying a petrol can and a lighter.

His wife called the police, but Bridey Smurthwaite, prosecuting, told the court the Coldstream Guard soldier failed to meet officers as arranged and instead a dramatic pursuit broke out, with Garthwaite running red lights and swerving round other traffic.

She said: "During the pursuit, police became concerned when, at the A184, they saw him wave a petrol can outside the driver's window. He then poured that petrol on himself and the car.

"He did this at speed. They believed he would set himself alight."

Footage from a police helicopter showed a lengthy chase along the A182 and A19, which was only brought to a halt when three police cars surrounded his Vauxhall Omega.

Yesterday Judge Guy Whitburn commended the three police officers, but he decided to spare Garthwaite prison after hearing of the service he had provided to his country and the lack of talented non-commissioned officers. …

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