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Mystery still surrounds East Sussex driver who went wrong way down M20 in Kent

M20 stock
M20 stock

A driver travelled for nine miles the wrong way along a motorway at 70mph before crashing and surviving without a scratch, a court heard.

The driver of the car psychiatric nurse Philip Irwin smashed into also escaped serious injury.

When questioned by police, Irwin could not give any explanation as to how he ended up on the London-bound carriage way of the M20 heading south.

“This is a complete mystery, a complete enigma,” said his lawyer Guy Russell at Maidstone Crown Court. “He was released from hospital the next day. He was not hurt in any way whatever.”

But a judge was told he had taken the anti-depressent drug Diazepam tablet and drunk whisky in the early hours to help him to sleep.

Irwin, of Cross in Hand, Heathfield, East Sussex, was spared a jail sentence after admitting dangerous driving.

He was given six months imprisonment suspended for a year and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work. He was banned from driving for three years.

Maidstone Crown Court heard how other drivers spotted Irwin’s Toyota Yaris on the wrong side of the motorway at 1pm on February 12.

John Fitzgerald, prosecuting, said after several near misses, Irwin crashed into another car causing it extensive damage.

One witness told the other driver he could not believe he was still alive. He escaped with whiplash to his neck and shoulders.

CCTV recovered by police showed the Toyota being driven for seven to nine miles in the wrong direction between junctions three and four.

“Mr Irwin was described as being confused and smelling of alcohol,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “Seized from the car was an opened bottle of Jack Daniels whisky.

“Although alcohol could be smelt on his breath, he was not over the legal limit. He was taken to hospital because of concern about his mental health.”

Irwin, 55, told police he had left work as a community psychiatric nurse at Maidstone Hospital and was travelling to Snodland for an appointment.

“It seems something of a mystery why he drove in the way described,” added the prosecutor.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said Irwin driving on the wrong side of the motorway was "a recipe for disaster".

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