REM star 'made up story to account for drunken rampage'

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The Independent Online

The REM guitarist Peter Buck was accused of "inventing" a story yesterday to account for behaving like a "drunken lout" on a British Airways jet.

Mr Buck told a court he "felt scared, kind of terrified, kind of foggy", after downing a sleeping tablet with a glass of wine on the flight from Seattle to London.

Yet when he was arrested and questioned by police at Heathrow, he had denied having taken any medication.

His tour manager, Robert Whittaker, also denied "fabricating" his account of events. He revealed to Isleworth Crown Court in west London that Mr Buck was afraid of going to jail but insisted he could only help him by telling the truth.

The 45-year-old musician is accused of a rampage through the first-class section on the transatlantic flight after consuming 15 glasses of wine in three hours.

Yesterday David Bate QC, for the prosecution, asked Mr Buck why he had failed to mention the medication to the police. Asked if he was "too frightened to tell the truth", the guitarist said: "I honestly didn't ... I was not lying. I was just trying to deal with a very difficult situation."

Mr Bate asked: "Why be economical with the truth about the medication?"

The millionaire musician replied: "I don't know, sir."

Mr Bate suggested that the reason he told police he had not taken any medication was because that was, in fact, the truth.

"You didn't take any medication. You have invented this in order to explain what would otherwise be attributable to drunkenness," he said.

"That is not so, sir," replied Mr Buck.

Mr Bate added: "I suggest you drank far too much and that your drinking made you aggressive." Mr Buck denied this was the case.

The barrister continued: "I suggest that you have had to cast around to try to find a defence to these charges."

The guitarist persisted: "I am under oath. I am telling the truth."

Mr Buck denies one charge of being drunk on the aircraft in April last year, two counts of common assault involving the cabin services director, Mario Agius, and a stewardess, Holly Ward, and one of criminal damage.

The jury was told that Mr Buck's defence relies partly on a condition called non-insane automatism brought on by the sleeping tablet and alcohol, as well as being a victim of mistaken identity after being confused with his tour manager.

Mr Whittaker, 35, said he had seen Mr Buck take one-and-a-half sleeping tablets at the start of the flight. He had taken the remaining half himself.

Mr Bate accused Mr Whittaker of fabricating his account of events. Mr Whittaker replied: "No, that is not correct. Peter is a friend and I know he is in trouble. We have discussed his concern about him going to jail and leaving his family. But I only want to help him by telling the truth."

The trial continues.