Beep-beep your Lordship

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

The Northern Star

A MAN claiming to be a Royal Earl led police on a dramatic 140km high-speed car chase from Grafton to Ballina early yesterday.

The Royal roadrunner, 34-yearold South Australian man Paul Henry Johnson, is alleged to have clocked up speeds of 143km/hour along the Pacific Highway after leaving a South Grafton petrol station without paying for fuel.

After a two?hour chase involving four cars and seven police officers, Johnson, who claims his true title is the Earl of Law, was eventually thwarted by road spikes at Ballina near the Bruxner Highway.

Even after his car was spiked, he tried to continue his escape, limping along with a flat, and eventually shredded, front tyre for another five kilometres to the Big Prawn.

He was arrested and taken to Ballina police station where he refused to answer questions, claiming police had 'breached his Royal rights' and that he 'out-ranked' police at the station.

Handcuffed and wearing surferstyle boardshorts and a T-shirt, Johnson yesterday chose to represent himself in Ballina Court.

"I am of a higher intelligence than you," Johnson told Magistrate Pogson.

"You probably are," Magistrate Pogson quipped back. "It wouldn't take much."

The 'Earl' was refused bail and taken to Richmond Clinic for a mental health assessment.

He is due to appear in court again on February 10 to face six charges: obtaining money by deception, reckless driving, driving an uninsured vehicle, driving an unregistered vehicle, being an unaccompanied learner driver and having custody of a knife in a public place.

In police facts tendered to the court, staff at the Mobil Big River Roadhouse in South Grafton reported Jonson to police around 1.40am yesterday morning after he allegedly left the service station without paying for $83.60 worth of premium unleaded fuel.

A short time later police pulled Johnson over north of Ulmarra and when questioned, claimed his family owned the petrol station and therefore he wasn't required to pay.

When told he was under arrest, it is alleged Johnson put the keys back in the ignition of his 1990 Ford sedan and drove off with his 'rear wheels spinning'.

A second highway patrol car joined the pursuit in which Johnson is alleged to have reached speeds ranging between 120 and 143km/hour.



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