Police pursue bypass driver

POLICE will push for heavier charges against Obadiah Hopkins if blood tests reveal that he was on illicit drugs during a dangerous pursuit on the Tugun bypass.

The 31-year-old appeared in the Murwillumbah Local Court yesterday charged with dangerous driving, but police prosecutor Sergeant Brett Graddisnick said there were potentially still charges to be laid, depending on blood tests taken in June.

Police allege 15 phone calls were received at 4.30pm, June 3 about Hopkins' driving on Sextons Hill. He was allegedly swerving across lanes and colliding with guard rails.

The phone calls continued and an unmarked police four-wheel-drive began pursuing Hopkins on the Pacific Highway near Kennedy Drive.

Police said they were "horrified" as Hopkins' white Daihatsu van drove straight at a traffic controller, and more police cars were called to the pursuit.

"It appeared the accused was totally oblivious to the police attempting to stop him," a police report handed to the court stated.

The chase, involving several marked cars, continued through the Tugun bypass tunnel at speeds between 50km/h and 80km/h.

Hopkins continued to swerve all over the road and the chase came to a stop when he collided with a centre guard rail and his vehicle became bogged. He told police he had been driving from Lismore to Mullumbimby and had no idea how he ended up in Tweed Heads.

Police formed the opinion he was affected by drugs, but Hopkins denied it at the time.

Wearing a suit and white shirt, Hopkins looked much smarter than he did on his first appearance on June 4, when he was led into the courthouse in custody wearing old clothes and looking dishevelled.

Sgt Graddisnick said the blood had only been received by the police laboratory on July 21 and it would take five to six weeks for results to come back.

"There may, or may not be a result," Sgt Graddisnick said.

He said the prosecution should not be disadvantaged because of delays for the analysis of blood, and it was a matter of public interest time be given for the test to come back.

Hopkins, formerly from Lismore, has now moved to Melbourne and has already pleaded guilty to the dangerous driving charges stemming from the pursuit.

Magistrate Jeff Linden agreed to adjourn the case until September 24.

"That would have to be the final adjournment, given the history," Mr Linden said.

Mr Linden requested the blood analysis be fast-tracked so it would be ready by the next court date.

Hopkins had a negative reading for alcohol on the date of the pursuit.



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