A DRINK-driver nearly four times over the legal limit hid in a tree and under his duvet in an attempt to evade police searching for him after he ploughed into three of his neighbours cars.

Kelvyn Rowley, 43, had spent the day drinking with friends at Teesdale beauty spot High Force, before driving to his family’s County Durham home in Stanhope on October 16.

Neighbours in Paragon Street heard a loud crash that evening and left their homes to find three parked cars belong to two residents had been hit by Rowley’s Vauxhall Corsa.

A Seat Leon was written off in the incident, while an Audi A4 and Volkswagen Transporter vehicle sustained extensive damage.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard on Thursday that father-of-four Rowley was nowhere to be seen in the immediate aftermath of the crash, however neighbours told police he fled the scene to his own property on Paragon Street.

Officers described knocking on the Rowley family front door, with a relative of the 43-year-old inviting them in, while Rowley himself escaped through the back door.

Magistrates were told that steel company worker Rowley hid in trees and eventually made his way back inside his home “when he believed the coast was clear”.

Police officers later returned to the Paragon Street property and pulled back the duvet of a double bed in the master bedroom to find Rowley hiding underneath.

The father-of-four was arrested and breathalysed, providing a breath sample of 139 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

A probation report read out in court stated that Rowley found himself drinking up to ten cans of alcohol per day and was arguing with his wife on the day of the crash.

Rowley’s solicitor added that he had been attempting to light a cigarette while driving home, dropped his lighter into the foot well and was attempting to retrieve it when he crashed.

He pleaded guilty to drink driving, driving without insurance, failing to report an accident and driving a vehicle involved in an unreported accident.

Chairman of the bench, Sian Allan-Gilbert, addressed the 43-year-old and told him magistrates had taken into account Rowley’s issues with alcohol, as well as serious health concerns and mental health problems.

She said: “We cannot ignore that the two owners of the three vehicles are out of pocket and the face the ongoing turmoil of trying to resolve the situation, which affects their families and their children.

“After the crash, you did not stop, you did not report it. You tried to evade the police in the beginning and hid in a tree and a house.

“You’re very fortunate that you did not kill somebody or a child.”

Rowley was handed an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He has also been disqualified from driving for two years and six months.

The 43-year-old must also complete a six-month alcohol treatment course and pay £85 in costs and a £115 victim surcharge.