Three men have been arrested after a high-speed police chase involving a hearse in Southend On Sea on Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly before 4.30pm, witnesses spotted a hearse on Sutton Lane driving ‘at incredible speeds’ and hitting a number of obstacles – police later confirmed that the offending vehicle was clocked at 96 miles per hour in a residential street.

One witness said: ‘All of a sudden I noticed a hearse go screaming past at a speed that I didn’t think it would be capable of, and it mounted the pavement and knocked down a postbox before careering into Patel’s Multi Mart.’

‘It quickly hit reverse gear and sped backwards in some kind of an attempt at a handbrake turn, but the coffin just flew out and destroyed the window in Greggs.’

‘The driver quickly jumped out of the hearse and ran away, but two officers were quick on his tail as he wasn’t difficult to spot.’

‘Another two men paused to try and remove the coffin before making their escape, and ultimately this was their downfall.’

A spokesperson for Essex Police said: ‘We noticed a funeral car driving erratically on Sutton Lane at 4.28pm on Tuesday, and after running the vehicle’s number plate through our ANPR system it became clear that the hearse was only insured as a regular car.’

‘Under the law of the United Kingdom, hearses and any other vehicle that is intended for the transportation of dead bodies needs to have specialist Cadaver Cover added on from an approved provider.’

‘This has been a legal requirement since 1978.’

The hearse was owned by Stift and Sons of Southend On Sea, and nobody there has made themselves available for comment.