A MAN in the “doldrums” after losing his job during the Covid-crisis turned to the bottle but made the mistake of attempting to drive one morning after drinking heavily, a court heard.

Terry Fenwick Blades drove the red van round residential and commercial streets of Murton in mid-morning, veering onto paths, across grass verges and passing school buildings before crashing into a parked car.

Durham Crown Court heard some of the driving was witnessed by officers in an unmarked police car.

Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, said the van was seen emerging from Calvert Terrace, cutting across the corner of the path at the junction, at 10.20am on July 9.

Blades drove onto the wrong side of the road and, at the junction of Barnes Road, narrowly avoiding a collision.

Miss Haugstad said the officers in the police vehicle lost sight of the van on Barnes Road.

It went on to Toft Crescent and Truro Avenue, before the officers next came across it, stationary across a footpath and grass verge, with Blades sitting in the driver’s seat alongside an empty vodka bottle, with the engine still running.

The van had extensive front end damage and Blades had to be given assistance to get out, but he then tried to flee the scene and became aggressive.

As the officers completed his arrest they were approached by the owner of a parked Renault Captur, which was badly damaged and had to be written off.

Red marks among the debris indicative that it had been on contact with Blades’ van.

Blades was taken to a police station but refused to co-operate with breath test procedure.

The 33-year-old defendant, of Rydal Avenue, in nearby Easington Lane, admitted dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen for analysis.

His record includes offences of driving with excess alcohol and failing to stop after an accident.

Jamie Adams, mitigating, said Blades was in a skilled job with a panelling company until the Covid-crisis led to him losing his employment, after which, while in “the doldrums”, his drinking increased.

Since the incident Blades has finally sought assistance to address his heavy drinking and is awaiting an appointment with Alcoholics Anonymous.

But Judge Ray Singh said he did not appear to be learning his lesson after the previous drink driving convictions.

Describing it as “extremely dangerous driving”, the judge said it was only through good fortune that no members of the public were badly injured.