THIS was the scene of devastation after a drink-driver smashed into a listed property, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage, with an upmarket car he had just taken off a garage forecourt.
Brick pillars and metal gates were hurled across the back garden of the Country Life house after drink-driver Kevin Canney had failed to negotiate a T junction.
He had been cycling past Europa Garage in Lowford when he saw the vehicle unattended with the key in the ignition.
He clambered into the driving seat and drove off with staff giving chase, but the pursuit did not last long, prosecutor Tom Wright told Southampton Crown Court.
Canney drove straight across the junction and crashed into the Grade II listed property in School Road, Bursledon, where a grandmother had been caring for her five-month-old grandson inside.
The Land Rover Discovery was written off and £8,000 had to be spent on repairs to the property.
The court heard Canney amazingly staggered unhurt from the wreckage and ran off but was discovered hiding in nearby undergrowth after police brought specialist dogs to the scene.
“When he was caught, it was clear he had been drinking,” said Mr Wright. “He was taken in custody where he refused to comply with the breath test procedure and provide a specimen for analysis.”
At the time, he was on bail for shoplifting when he entered the Co-op in Thornhill and stole £38 worth of meat from a shelf. When challenged by an employee, he pushed her aside and she fell over.
Canney was granted bail after the driving incident and went on to steal from three other convenience stores.
The 35-year-old, who has no settled address, admitted four counts of theft and one each of aggravated taking and driving away without consent, failing to provide a specimen for analysis and having no insurance and a driving licence.
Recorder Michael Parroy QC jailed him for 20 months and banned him from driving for five years.
“This was an act of extraordinary stupidity,” he said, passing sentence. “It was a mercy that there was nobody coming the other way at the T junction when you drove across it and you were not injured. Your guardian angel was working hard for you.”
The court heard from defence barrister Mark Florida-James how Canney could not remember anything about the incident. He did not want a drug rehabilitation sentence and preferred to remain in prison where he had been making progress over his drug taking.
“It has ruined your life,” the judge told him. “Unless you take this opportunity, it will ruin it still further.”
The crash on February 26 was the third time a car had come crashing through the home of owners Adam and Colleen Chafe. The first was in January of last year and the second happened the following May.
Mr Chafe, 50, who owns CEI Electrical in Hedge End, told the Echo at the time of the crash: “Had it been summer, my family could have been in that garden. Something needs to be done.”