A teenager has been cleared of mowing down a pedestrian with her car after telling a jury that he jumped onto her bonnet to try to make her stop.

Annabelle Lock said she was petrified she and her boyfriend would be attacked and killed when they were confronted by an angry man in the parking area behind flats in Ilfracombe.

She said Rees Smith had threatened them both in a previous encounter ten minutes earlier and she was 'petrified' when he stood in front of their car, shouting and gesticulating.

Miss Lock, 19, told a jury at Exeter Crown Court that she tried to drive off as Mr Smith moved around the side of the car towards the passenger door.

She said she panicked when he responded by jumping onto the bonnet and crashed her Citroen Saxo into one of a row of large rocks that marked off a grassy area next to the car park.

Miss Lock and her boyfriend Dale Padmore then drove away with a puncture but stopped a few hundred yards away and abandoned the car at the edge of a park, the court heard.

She said they feared Mr Rees and his brother might be chasing them so they ran to a public toilet in the park where they locked themselves in a cubicle and dialled 999 to call the police.

Miss Lock had only passed her driving test a month before the incident at Chandlers Way, Ilfracombe, in August last year.

Miss Lock, from Parracombe, denied dangerous driving and assault causing actual bodily harm. She was found not guilty of both by the jury.

During the trial Mr Rees told the jury she had run him over as he stood on front of her car and he had been thrown onto the bonnet before being catapulted off onto a grass verge.

He suffered cuts, bruises and suspected broken ribs, but no injuries to his legs.

Heather Hope, prosecuting, said Mr Smith was visiting his brother Darryl at Chandlers Way at 6pm on Wednesday July 11 last year, when the incident happened.

He was walking across the car parking area in the cul-de-sac when he was seen by a neighbour standing in front of the car and gesticulating at Lock and her boyfriend through the window.

She told the court: "As he approached the car, he could hear the engine revving and there was a loud screech of tyres. Lock drove straight into him at speed and he did not have time to get out of the way.

"The car struck him and he was thrown onto the bonnet. It continued moving without slowing down. The next thing he can remember is the car striking something and being thrown off.

"Our case is that she drove dangerously. She drove towards Mr Smith and struck him, causing an injury, and the manner of his driving was way below what you would expect from a careful and competent driver."

Miss Hope said the car hit a white stone which marked the edge of the parking area and Mr Smith was thrown onto the grass beyond.

Miss Lock told the jury she was a former girl guide who had just passed her driving test. She said she did not know Mr Rees well but knew there was bad feeling between him and her boyfriend at the time.

She said Mr Rees had approached them shortly before the incident and told them he would kill them both if he saw them again. She said she feared he may have a concealed weapon when he approached them in Chandlers Way.

She said: "He was in front of the car. He was very angry. Then he started coming Dale's side of the car. I was petrified for myself and for Dale. I waited until he was to the left of the car and started to drive off.

"The speed might have been more excessive than what I normally drive but the wheels were not spinning. He jumped on the bonnet from the left hand side.

"I panicked and did not know what to do. I drove off and he fell off. I was distracted by him being on the bonnet and hit the stone on the way out. He was on the bonnet for no more than three seconds.

"He fell off and I continued to drive. I was scared. I did not know if he would retaliate in a violent way. I had a puncture and Dale told me to stop. I was planning to drive to the police station.

"I did not know if he was going to pursue me, or chase me, or kill me."