MYSTERY surrounds the death of a wealthy businessman found slumped at the wheel of his brand new Range Rover.
The vehicle veered across a green in the middle of a quiet cul-de-sac before coming to rest when it hit the porch of a bungalow at The Haven, Langley Park, near Durham, on Saturday evening.
The dead man was named locally as Kenneth Anderson.
The presence of what looked like a handgun in the front seat of Mr Anderson’s car caused alarm.
A police armed response unit raced to the scene, as did firefighters and ambulance crews. Mr Anderson was found slumped in the front seat of his Range Rover.
Neighbours said they saw a handgun on Mr Anderson’s lap and removed it from the vehicle before the emergency services arrived, handing it over to police. Yesterday Durham police confirmed a gun had been handed to them, but a spokesman described it as “a toy”
Mr Anderson, said to be in his late fifties, used to be a partner in Anderson and Young coachworks, a thriving business in the village.
Eyewitnesses said they were out in their gardens enjoying the sun when the drama unfolded at about 6.30pm on Saturday.
Former nurse Anne Taylor, 51, who lives with husband Gerard next door to the house which the Range Rover hit, said: “We were on the sun lounge when I heard what sounded like a crackling noise and got up to have a look.
“I saw the Range Rover coming across the middle of the green and wondered what the driver was doing. I couldn’t see the driver because the sun was in my eyes.
“But then I heard a loud bang and realised the car had hit the house next door, which was empty. The lady who lived there died a couple of weeks ago.”
Mrs Taylor said her husband and a neighbour opened the doors of the Range Rover to try to assist Mr Anderson, and saw a gun in the front seat.
“The neighbour took the gun out of the car. I wanted to try to lift the driver out but he was too heavy.
“As a former nurse I wanted to try to help but was worried because of the gun. I could only hear a gurgling noise from the driver, who was alone in the car.
“The police took around 10 minutes to arrive, I believe, and sealed the street off. They said we had done the right thing by taking the gun out of the Range Rover.”
Mrs Taylor added: “I am so relieved my grandchildren weren’t here. If they had been playing in front of the house the consequences don’t bear thinking about.”
Another neighbour, who declined to be named, said: “We were out having a barbecue when the Range Rover hit the bungalow and then all hell broke loose.
“Armed response units, firefighters and ambulances all raced to the scene.”
Police said the incident was reported to them at 6.30pm and the driver of the Range Rover was pronounced dead in hospital at 7.40pm. The road was sealed off until 9pm.