A FURIOUS husband rammed his wife's car at 70mph on a motorway and ground to a halt in the fast lane during rush hour traffic.

Several other motorists who had to get out of Michael Ward's way, called police and described him as driving "like a madman".

Miraculously no one was injured before 26-year-old Ward's van and his wife's Astra stopped on the hard shoulder.

Bolton Crown Court heard how childhood sweethearts Ward and wife Violet have been married for 10 years and have three children, but in September last year were having marital difficulties.

Alison Mather, prosecuting, said Mrs Ward moved out of their Blackburn Road, Oswaldtwistle, home to go and live with her grandfather in Worsley.

"On October 7 at 4.30pm she got to know via her mother that the matrimonial home was empty and Mr Ward wouldn't be at home, so took the opportunity to collect her belongings," said Miss Mather.

After gathering her possessions Mrs Ward headed back towards Worsley in her Astra via the M61.

But the court heard that Ward was alerted to her presence by his mother, who lives next door and at 5.10pm , as she was approaching Junction Four at Watergate Lane, Bolton, Mrs Ward saw his white transit van behind her.

"He hit the rear of her car. She was travelling at about 70mph. It caused her car to jerk forward, she felt winded as she was bounced around in her seat," said Miss Mather.

Mrs Ward tried to escape her husband by changing lanes but he continued to stay close behind her, calling her on his mobile phone as he drove.

"She ignored the call but he continued to follow her, weaving in and out of traffic," said Miss Mather.

In the fast lane Ward's van pulled in front of her and suddenly stopped, forcing her to stop as well.

"She describes herself as being surprised she wasn't killed," said Miss Mather.

Mrs Ward pulled onto the hard shoulder where her husband got out of his van and began hammering on the car window.

"She was terrified," said Miss Mather, who added that Ward yelled at his wife, "You've caused all of this."

The court heard that, since the incident, Mrs Ward has retracted her statement and the couple are now back together.

Mohammed Latif, defending, stressed that Ward, who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, works hard to support his family and has not been in trouble before or since the incident.

"There is genuine remorse and shame for his behaviour on that particular day," said Mr Latif, who added that Ward is not a well man, having undergone surgery for several tumours.

Judge Timothy Stead sentenced Ward to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, ordered him to participate in 20 days of rehabilitation activities and he must pay £250 towards prosecution costs.

He was also banned from driving for 12 months after which he must take and extended retest.

"In ordinary circumstances you are a pleasant, peaceable, caring individual that does right by your family," said Judge Stead.

"To some extent you are shocked to find yourself in this court as a defendant."

The judge added that not jailing him immediately had been "a close run thing."

"I hope you don't let your family down. I hope you don't let the court down," he said.