Families and young children enjoying a stroll in the countryside had to run for cover as a Ford Transit van came hurtling towards them in a field after smashing through the gates of an historic church.
At the wheel of the Transit van was Adam Henderson, a 27-year-old career criminal described as a “barbarian” who was fleeing police and had just smashed through a wooden gate in the car park of St Everilda’s Church in Nether Poppleton, York Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Ella Embleton said that as families and young children dashed for cover near the 12th century church, the van hurtled along a small footpath before careering into a second field where it smashed it another wooden gate and a barbed-wire fence, before finally coming to a stop in another field – just before the train tracks.
Henderson got out of the van and made a run for it but he was stopped by a police officer following a short chase.
He had a container of amphetamine in one hand. Henderson told officers he had taken 19 wraps of the Class B drug before being arrested.
“He was therefore taken to York Hospital where he had his handcuffs removed to allow tests to be conducted by medics,” added Ms Embleton.
Henderson, a “cash-in-hand” odd-job man, asked officers if he could use the toilet but as he was being escorted there, he pushed a police constable in the back and ran off in an escape bid.
The officer chased him through the hospital and detained him. Henderson was taken back into custody where he smeared excrement over surfaces in his police cell.
Ms Embleton said it cost £100 to deep-clean the cell after Henderson’s revolting act.
He was charged with dangerous driving, assaulting a police officer, criminal damage, driving while disqualified and possessing a Class B drug. He admitted all offences and appeared for sentence today (Tuesday).
Ms Embleton said the police chase began at about 10.45am on 18 December last year after police received reports of a “suspicious Transit van” in Poppleton.
Two officers spotted the vehicle on Station Road and noticed it had no front registration plate. The van pulled out of a driveway onto the main road and officers activated the blue lights, but Henderson sped off.
Ms Embleton said the van was travelling at 60mph in a 30mph zone and clipped the kerb twice.
It then slowed down as Henderson threw an item of clothing out of the window, before turning right onto Main Street where it was driven on the wrong side of the road in the path of oncoming vehicles, causing it to “stop abruptly”.
“Pedestrians on that route were alarmed and the van continued along Main Street, turning into Church Lane, entering St Everilda’s Church car park (where it) smashed through a wooden gate and into an adjacent field,” she added.
She said “at least four people had to take evasive action” to avoid being hit by the van. The estimated repair bill for the damaged gate was put at £1,000.
Henderson, of Salts Mill Road, Shipley, near Bradford, had a long criminal history comprising previous convictions for theft, battery, threatening behaviour, damaging property, dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking and many for burglary. He had spent most of his 20s in prison.
Defence barrister Matthew Stewart said Henderson had been recalled to prison following his arrest in Poppleton to serve the remainder of a six-year jail sentence imposed in March 2021 for offences including attempted burglary.
He would not be released until January 2026.
He said the father-of-one had been out collecting scrap metal when he was spotted by police on Station Road and had also worked as a landscape gardener.
Judge Sean Morris branded Henderson a “barbarian” and a “career criminal”.
He handed Henderson a 14-month jail sentence but said that because of new statutory rules meaning judges couldn’t give consecutive sentences to recalled prisoners, that sentence would be subsumed within the existing one.
Henderson was also slapped with a five-year driving ban.