A MOTORIST crashed to his death while trying to flee from another driver in panic following a lengthy, increasingly high-speed car chase.

Lenny Deugo was making an emergency call to police when he lost control of his Rover MG ZR car, before colliding with an oncoming Renault van, on the A692 Genesis Way, Consett, at 11.50am on Sunday October 1, 2017.

Mr Deugo, 26, from Consett, was pronounced dead at the scene, while the van driver was seriously injured and spent more than a month being treated at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

But the driver of a black Vauxhall Insignia, Craig Keeler, who was pursuing Mr Deugo’s car, drove off from the scene.

The car was found at Keeler’s home in Alder Grove, in nearby Leadgate, several hours later and he was arrested when he returned to the address at 5.30pm.

Durham Crown Court heard he accepted having been the Insignia driver and told police he tried to overtake the MG ZR before the collision, but said Mr Deugo blocked him and would not let him past.

Jolyon Perks, prosecuting, said Keeler initially refused to tell police where he had been driving prior to the incident and would not reveal if he had any passengers.

Mr Perks said before his arrest, Keeler disposed of his phone, which has not been recovered.

But, analysis of calls to Mr Deugo’s housemate shows Keeler rang him 14 times between 11.15 and 11.48am, the last time only 45 seconds before the fatal accident, ending the call at the time of the collision.

Mr Perks said one of Mr Deugo’s brothers called him twice as he had been warned by his housemate that “three lads” were looking for him.

Mr Deugo also rang his housemate to say he was “really scared” as the “three big lads” were after him.

Mr Perks said witnesses described the Insignia apparently pursuing the MG ZR, travelling at high speed and performing dangerous overtaking manoeuvres, shortly before the collision.

The Insignia was estimated to be travelling at 73-miles per hour on a 30-limit stretch of the A692 passing The Grove, a short time earlier.

Mr Perks added that it was the prosecution’s case that Keeler and his unnamed passengers were, “of the mindset to chase down and stop” Mr Deugo.

Keeler, 31, admitted causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving on the day of trial, having previously denied the offences.

Friday’s sentencing hearing was told of the “devastating impact” of Mr Deugo’s death on his family, including his young son, with whom he had been due to go on holiday.

Matthew Donkin, for Keeler, said he now accepts his driving was, “deliberate, intimidatory and persistent,” and wished to apologise to both Mr Deugo’s family and the other injured victim.

But, Judge Jonathan Carroll dismissed his claims of remorse, due to the fact he disposed of his phone and still refuses to reveal why he was in pursuit of Mr Keeler or to identify his three passengers.

Describing it as, “an absolute tragedy and a senseless loss of life”, he added: “This was a chase and Mr Deugo was fleeing for his life.”

He jailed Keeler for ten years and nine months, and banned him from driving for eight years and four months.