Death crash driver took cocaine and was nearly twice over drink drive limit

An angler well-known for catching the biggest fish in the North West died after driving at high speed in a 30mph zone with excess alcohol and cocaine in his system, an inquest has heard. Paul Anthony Hargreaves, 38, sustained multiple injuries after the Land Rover Freelander he was driving along Mosley Common Road, Tyldesley, clipped the nearside kerb before veering into the path of an oncoming truck. He died at the scene.

Toxicology results showed Mr Hargreaves, of Langtree Close, Ellenbrook, Worsley, had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood and he had been using cocaine. CCTV footage from a camera on a house just 80 yards from the scene of the accident at 9.50pm on December 15 last year showed Mr Hargreaves was driving the car at between 69mph and 72mph prior to the collision. Coroner Alan Walsh heard how Mr Hargreaves had been employed in his father’s business and had been a talented rugby league player.

But his favourite pastime was angling and he had set up Swinton Angling Centre. He was sponsored and had fished waters all over the country and became well known after he caught the biggest fish in the North West. On the day of the tragedy, Mr Hargreaves had walked round to see his cousin Chris Smith in Limefield Drive, Worsley, with his friend Mark Piggott and cans of beer were consumed.

Mr Smith, the owner of the Freelander, eventually went out before Mr Hargreaves decided he wanted to go to the shop. In written evidence, Mr Smith said he normally hid the keys to the Freelander, but on this occasion he did not. Mr Hargreaves, who had not driven the car before got behind the wheel and he and Mr Piggott set off to the shop.

In written evidence Mr Piggott said that when the car was on Mosley Common Road he asked Mr Hargreaves to slow down, but instead he speeded up.

At a bend in in the road the car clipped the kerb and veered into the path of oncoming traffic. Coming the other way was a Volvo HGV tractor unit driven by Norman Holt a trucker with 30 years’ experience. But he could not avoid the out of control Freelander veering into his path.

Although Mr Hargreaves sustained fatal injuries, Mr Piggott in the passenger seat escaped with minor injuries. Pathologist Dr Stephen Wells said the cause of death was multiple injuries and fractures consistent with a serious road accident. Toxicology results from Dr Julie Evans revealed Mr Hargreaves had 140 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in his system.

The legal limit for driving is 80 milligrams. She also found evidence of cocaine use.

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“Cocaine can affect a person’s ability to drive a car and can be associated with aggressive driving and increased risk taking,” said Mr Walsh. Concluding, Mr Walsh said that once Mr Hargreaves had clipped the kerb ‘there was no way Mr Holt could have avoided the car’. “Mr Hargreaves sustained catastrophic injuries.

The only conclusion I can reach is that he died as a result of a road traffic collision.

“He was a man who was extremely successful following his hobby as a fisherman and angler, rising to national prominence at competition level and was at the top of his game.

For him to die in these circumstances is extremely sad and tragic.”