A MOTORIST drove “erratically”, at excess speed, causing an accident which led to the death of a much-loved theatre manager, a court was told.

Mark Innes, 31, was today (Monday March 24) jailed for ten months at Durham Crown Court having previously admitting causing the death of Ian Brown by careless driving.

But a judge found against Innes’s basis of plea, following a trial of issue over the manner of his driving prior to a collision at the scene of a minor accident, which had just taken place on the A693 Stanley to Chester-le-Street road, near the turn off for Beamish, at 11.45am on February 9 last year.

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The court heard that his Mercedes Sprinter van hit a Nissan Nevaro, which moments earlier struck the back of a Renault Megane.

Gavin Doig, prosecuting, said the force of the collision shunted the Nevaro into the opposite carriageway, into the path of an oncoming Suzuki Swift, driven by Mr Brown.

The duty/leisure manager at Consett’s Empire Theatre suffered serious multiple injuries and had to be cut free from his car before being airlifted to hospital.

Despite extensive treatment 45-year-old Mr Brown, of Causey View, Stanley, was confirmed dead due to complications which set in, over ensuing days, in the early hours of February 14.

Innes, a carpet fitter, of Lumley Drive, Consett, pleaded guilty on the basis he was driving too close to the vehicles ahead.

But after the trial of issue, or Newton hearing, Judge Christopher Prince found that Innes’s driving was “erratic” and at excess speed, from entering the A693 in a “reckless” manner at the Pelaw Avenue junction at East Stanley.

Christopher Knox, for Innes, said he was a hard working family man who was “acutely distressed” at the death of Mr Brown.

Jailing him, Judge Prince also banned Innes from driving for three years, and he must sit an extended test if he is to drive again.

The court was read a statement from Mr Brown’s sister Joan Elizabeth Reynolds who spoke of the family’s trauma, having being left grief-ridden at his death.

Her statement included comments from her late brother's former colleagues at the theatre who spoke highly of Mr Brown as, “a wonderful person”, with, "a massive heart”.