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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Star showjumper's drink-drive ban after being caught twice the limit after charity ball

By James Tozer

One of Britain’s top Olympic showjumping hopefuls has been banned from the road after being caught more than twice the drink-drive limit after a charity ball.

Ellen Whitaker, engaged to actor Henry Cavill, who is to play Superman in a forthcoming Hollywood film, was on her way home in her Range Rover Sport when she realised she had drunk too much, a court heard.

The 25-year-old niece of British Olympic showjumpers John and Michael Whitaker decided to divert to a friend’s house nearby, but was stopped by police before she could get there.

Banned: Ellen Whitaker was found at twice over the drink-drive limit

Officers pulled her over in the centre of Knutsford, Cheshire, initially believing she was merely lost, but when they spoke to her they realised she smelt of alcohol, the court was told.

Whitaker, who blamed her error of judgement on not having eaten before the ball, was banned from driving for 18 months, and afterwards apologised.

She announced in May her engagement to 28-year-old Cavill, best known for playing Henry VIII's brother-in-law the Duke of Suffolk alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the raunchy BBC series The Tudors.

The privately-educated actor became the latest to don Superman’s famous red cape for the forthcoming blockbuster Man of Steel.

Whitaker had been attending a charity ball in Cheshire on September 19.

After leaving a friend’s house to drive home to South Yorkshire she turned back after just a mile, prosecutor Debbie Byrne told Macclesfield magistrates.

A roadside breath test proved positive and she was taken to a police station where her lowest reading was 77 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath - more than double the legal limit of 35.

Defending herself, Whitaker, of Silkstone, near Barnsley, pleaded guilty to drink driving.

She told magistrates: ‘I didn’t realise I was over the limit, but when I started driving I realised I was and was on my way back.’

She was disqualified from driving for 18 months, fined £150 and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

In a statement after the case, a spokeswoman for Whitaker said: ‘Ellen is very sorry this incident occurred.

‘She had been at a charity ball and hadn’t had a chance to eat before.

‘She had no idea she was over the legal limit when she got into the car.

‘Having driven less than a mile, Ellen realised she might be over the legal limit and turned round to return to her friend’s house. It was on the way back that the police stopped her.

‘Ellen would never condone drink-driving and sincerely apologises for her actions.’
A member of the famous Whitaker showjumping family, she has been ranked as high as 13th in Britain.

On her website she says her goal is to make the British team for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Her three younger brothers – who like her are trained by their father, Stephen – are also aspiring showjumpers.



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