AN 86-year-old Aldershot man was killed in a head-on crash after getting lost and driving the wrong way down a dual carriageway.

Douglas Helder died from multiple injuries when his Fiat Regatta was in an accident with a Peugeot on the A31 near Holybourne on the outskirts of Alton.

An inquest was told that Mr Helder left his home in Upper St Michael's Road to go to his bowls club in Farnham, but got lost and did not arrive there.

He drove to Guildford, then along the A3 towards Portsmouth before heading the wrong way down the A31. Tragically, the confused pensioner, who was driving at night, died several hours later as he tried to find his way home.

Daniel Carlos said he was driving along the A3 towards Portsmouth on November 15 when he came up behind Mr Helder's slow moving Fiat near the Devil's Punchbowl at Hindhead.

Mr Carlos said Mr Helder's car was veering from side to side and sometimes crossed on to the wrong side of the road.

Thinking the driver was drunk, he telephoned the police and read them the number plate.

When Mr Helder stopped at the Hindhead traffic lights he got out and removed several traffic cones from under the front of his car.

He then continued to drive erratically along the A3 before Mr Carlos overtook him at Bramshott Chase.

Pc Mark Tucker said he was waiting for Mr Helder's car at the Liss roundabout following reports of his erratic driving. He followed Mr Helder towards Liss and saw him cross on to the wrong side of the road.

Mr Helder was stopped and said he had not been drinking, but was lost.

"He said he was looking for Aldershot where he lived and thought he was on the road to Guildford," said Pc Tucker. "I told him he was going towards Portsmouth and he said he never wanted to drive at night again."

Pc John White said he escorted Mr Helder to the A325 at 9.25pm from where he said he knew his way home.

But at 11.12pm Pc White was called to a crash on the A31 and noticed Mr Helder's car was involved.

"Apart from the fact that he was very lost there was nothing we could do to stop him from driving," said Pc White.

Mr Helder was travelling the wrong way on the A31 when he was in the accident with the Peugeot, being driven by Richard Page who was returning home from working as a chef at a restaurant in Farnham.

Mr Page said he saw headlights coming towards him, but was unable to avoid Mr Helder because he was overtaking in the outside lane.

"There was an almighty smash and I was aware of an intense pain," he said.

Mr Page had to be cut from his car by Hampshire firefighters. He had serious chest injuries and was in intensive care for five days at the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke.

"I realised I was trapped and was conscious throughout the whole rescue period," said Mr Page, who is still receiving physiotherapy.

Next door neighbour Derek Vickers said Mr Helder's health and well being deteriorated after his wife died a year ago.

Mr Helder became absent minded and on one occasion left the front door open. He also got lost, confused and frightened when driving in the dark.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Andrew Bradley said: "This is one of the saddest accidents I've come across for a long time.

"It is a matter of great sadness that Mr Helder died in this way and it is a relief that he died alone and no one else went with him.

"I've no doubt it was pride that made him motor on. How he went the wrong way can only be put down to confusion."