An couple eating a takeaway in their car in Richmond were approached by a man who threatened to burn and kill them, a court heard this week.
York Crown Court heard the pair had been parked in St Hilary Close when they noticed a car driving past “erratically” and presumed it was a delivery driver looking for an address.
But then the vehicle was driven to the top of the street before reversing at “excessive speed” back to the top of the road where the couple were parked, said prosecutor James Howard.
The driver, 39-year-old Neil Franks, got out of the vehicle and walked up to the couple’s car.
“He said ‘why have you been in my house? Why have you been in the car park outside my house? Why have you turned my taps on?’” added Mr Howard.
The male victim, who was named in court, told Franks he did not know who he was and that he had not been in his house.
Franks, pressing his head against the driver’s-side window, told him: “If I ever catch you in my house again, I’m going to burn you; I’m going to kill you both.”
The couple, who “didn’t know Franks from Adam” and didn’t have a clue where he lived, were convinced they were in serious danger.
“(Franks) continued to make threats to kill the victims before walking back to his car,” added Mr Howard.
The male victim got out of his car to reason with him, whereupon Franks opened his car door and threatened to kill him again.
Meanwhile, the man’s girlfriend was frantically trying to get through to the police.
Noticing she was dialling 999, Franks told her: “If you call the police, I will kill you.”
He did a wheelspin and drove out of the street, but police were already on the way and an officer found him a few minutes later in nearby Reeth Road.
On seeing the officer, Franks told her: “I can’t talk to you; I need you to take me to the anti-corruption unit in Catterick.
“There’s a (high-ranking officer) in there who’s involved in crime.”
The officer allowed him to drive on and told him to follow her to the police station in Catterick Garrison, only for Franks to overtake her and speed off at Longwood Bank as she activated the blue lights, shooting through red lights as he did so.
“He was swerving all over the road (and then) indicated and slowed down to a stop,” said Mr Howard.
The officer, who was not trained in car chases, did not pursue Franks but called in colleagues who found him in a Tesco car park.
“When arrested, he said he needed a Covid test and there were lots of evidence in his house related to high-ranking police officers,” added Mr Howard.
Franks, of Quakers Road, Richmond, was charged with affray and careless driving.
He admitted both offences when he appeared for sentence on Thursday.
The court heard that the named female victim said she was “genuinely concerned” that Franks was going to hurt her and her partner.
She said she was “really shaken up, panicked and scared” during the incident at about 9pm on March 6.
She said the way Franks behaved was “not that of a normal person” and was convinced that he had deliberately blocked her boyfriend’s car in with his vehicle.
The couple believed that the threats to kill were genuine, said Mr Howard.
Franks had 22 previous convictions for 38 offences, mainly acquisitive crime but also public disorder, making a threat to kill and driving while disqualified.
Chris Dunn, for Franks, said his client, who was on benefits, had mental-health issues and had not been taking his medication at the time.
He put Franks’s “bizarre” behaviour down to a “chemical imbalance”.
Judge Simon Hickey said the couple were “genuinely fearful” for their lives but that he was prepared to give Franks a chance to stay out of jail and redeem himself.
He told Franks: “This was bizarre behaviour but the report says you need help and treatment.”
He suspended the four-month prison sentence for 18 months.
During the suspension period, Franks, who is currently serving another driving ban, will receive mental-health support during a 40-day rehabilitation programme.
He was also fined £100 for careless driving and had five points added to his licence.