Published: 06:00, 02 May 2021
| Updated: 07:12, 02 May 2021
A grieving dad from Sittingbourne claimed his life was so blighted by a double tragedy that he planned to kill himself.
But Fred Rye’s suicide trip led to him being arrested for carrying a weapon and driving dangerously.
The learner driver led police around the streets of Faversham at twice the speed limit before stashing the weapon under a parked car.
The 56-year-old, from Tonge Road, Sittingbourne, told officers he had taken the antique pistol to clean it, then confessed to a psychiatrist that he was so grief-stricken he was going to kill himself - and took the weapon with him a momento because it had belonged to his late son, Bill.
His funeral in April last year was marred when a friend of Bill, 17-year-old Aaron Smith died after being struck by a motorbike in Tonge Road, Murston at the gathering.
Now Rye has now been jailed for a total of more than three years after admitting illegally possessing the weapon, driving dangerously and possessing amphetamines.
Prosecutor Mary Jacobson told Maidstone Crown Court how in May 2020, Rye’s grey Saab was stopped by police in Priory Road, Faversham after driving at twice the 30mph speed limit.
He told the officer: “I need to get some medication, someone is having an epileptic fit.”
Because of the claim, officers agreed to follow him to his home, but Rye accelerated away driving at speeds of 70 mph forcing pedestrians to step back to avoid being hit as the Saab mounted the pavement.
The prosecutor said the second chase was for three miles and ended in an industrial estate but sharp-eyed officers had spotted Rye crouching between two cars.
They searched the area and discovered the antique weapon - dating back about 100 years - stashed in the wheel arch of a parked BMW.
Ms Jacobson said the single -shot pistol could fire a .22 cartridge but its chamber was empty, although police experts were later able to discharge the weapon.
James Howard, defending, said Rye’s family had been hit by a double tragedy after their son William - known as Bill - died and at his funeral teenager Aaron Smith was killed after being struck by a motorcycle in Tonge Road, Murston, on April 16 2020.
He asked the judge not to pass the minimum of five year jail term which is usually mandatory unless the judge finds there were exceptional circumstances.
“I am asking that as an act of mercy he should not face that minimum sentence. He had this weapon because it had once belonged to his son and did not have it for any sinister purposes.”
Mr Howard said Rye had intended to take his own life because of his grief and was intending to drive to a secluded spot and use the exhaust fumes to kill himself.
“He had taken the deaths very very badly and still does.
Rye’s defence counsel said police had prevented him from taking his own life.
He had intended to drive to a secluded spot and take his own life, the court heard.
It was only the police’s actions which prevented him from being able to carry out the macabre mission, his defence claimed.
The Judge Catherine Moore said she rejected Rye’s account that he was planning to clean the weapon.
She did, however, keep an open mind about the validity of his claim he was going to kill himself.
She accepted there were reasons not to enforce the mandatory sentence.
“However, this was a firearm and capable of making a very loud bang.”
She jailed him for 41 months and banned him from driving for 25 and a half months.