Expert doubts sleepwalk in fatal hit-run

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A sleep expert believes the father of former NSW police minister Troy Grant was not sleepwalking when involved in a fatal hit-and-run crash after a Christmas party.

Dr Anup Desai, a specialist sleep and respiratory physician, told the Newcastle District Court on Tuesday there was no evidence Ken Grant, 72, had fallen asleep at the party before going out and driving his ute.

Dr Desai said, in his professional opinion, sleepwalkers could not drive a car or certainly not drive a significant distance without crashing.

Grant has pleaded not guilty in a judge-alone trial to several charges including dangerous driving causing death after running over scientist Tony Greenfield when allegedly drink driving at about 11.25pm on November 30, 2019, in the Maitland suburb of Bolwarra.

The 62-year-old scientist died of his injuries at Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital.

Grant, who had a blood alcohol level of 0.108, claimed to have no memory of the crash which threw Mr Greenfield 20m forward past his wife when they were walking to their accommodation after being at the party.

The retired police officer's defence is he could have been sleepwalking or had sleep apnoea at the time which meant his decision to drive was "involuntary".

Defence barrister Phillip Boulten SC suggested Grant could have been on auto-pilot with no conscious understanding of what he was doing or the consequences.

Dr Desai told the court people with somnambulism would usually only sleepwalk for between five to seven minutes at most.

He said it would only be in extremely unusual cases where people sleepwalking would leave the house and drive a car and, while such incidents had been reported in medical literature, he had never personally seen a similar case and did not believe they existed.

Dr Desai doubted Grant was sleepwalking when he drove 850m before hitting Mr Greenfield and another four kilometres before being pulled over by police.

"I've never seen such florid sleepwalking activities at that age (Grant was 70 at the time) in 20 years of practice," Dr Desai said.

"I have a lot of difficulty accepting that."

Questioned by Mr Boulten, Dr Desai agreed somnambulism often runs in the family (Grant's son and daughter were sleepwalkers) and that alcohol was thought to increase the possibility of sleepwalking.

Mr Boulten described one sleepwalking incident when Grant was in his 20s when he got out of bed, walked to the beach and had a swim before coming back to the house.

Asked by prosecutor Lee Carr SC if Grant's actions at the party when he went to the toilet at about 11pm and appeared to be unsteady on his feet and intoxicated fitted someone who was sleepwalking, Dr Desai replied: "I don't think so".

Dr Desai said Grant would have looked confused and in a completely disoriented and vacant state if sleepwalking.

In a videotaped record of interview played to the court, Grant told police: "I don't know why I was on the road.

"I don't remember leaving the party.

"I didn't know there was a collision. I had no idea until the police stopped me.

"I didn't know what happened. I shouldn't laugh. It's a dreadful, dreadful scenario."

Grant said he had always planned to stay the night after the party having organised a stretcher, mattress, sleeping bag and pillow so he didn't know why he had left.

The trial resumes on Wednesday.

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