A man has been arrested after swimming across a river to escape police following an eight-vehicle crash on the A27.  

The crash happened following a police pursuit on the A27 at Southerham, near Lewes, at 4.12pm. 

A Mercedes, which had been reported stolen from south-west London, was spotted travelling at speed, before a police chase ensued.

The pursuit started on the A23 just north of Pyecombe, before the car turned on to the A27.

It rammed a police car at the A23/A27 interchange before continuing on towards the eastern end of Lewes by-pass where it crashed, damaging a number of other vehicles.

Three men ran from the convertible, before one swam across the River Ouse to escape police. 

But the man was captured on the opposite bank. 

He was taken to hospital under arrest, along with another of the car's occupants who suffered an arm injury in the collision.

The driver of another vehicle involved in the collision sustained a suspected broken collarbone and was also taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

Motorists are being advised to avoid the area.

Westbound traffic is moving slowly, but the road is closed eastbound at the Kingston roundabout resulting in serious congestion in the area and in Lewes itself.

The road closure is likely to continue into the evening and drivers are recommended to seek alternative routes as soon as they are able.

Sergeant Stacey Ellott from the Surrey and Sussex roads policing unit said: "We are aware that this is causing considerable disruption and we are working as swiftly as possible to reopen the road, but this will take some time and we thank people for their patience.

"I am hoping that we will have the road open again by around 9pm."

One driver said he saw a car being pursued by police. 

Nic Goodman, 35, said he saw a car being pursued.

He said: "I saw a white convertible way back on the A27 driving at speed with police following without lights.

"Then at the Ashcombe roundabout they stuck their lights on, and the convertible took off. 

"Then at Southerham roundabout he crashed taking out the front of a truck and at least two other vehicles.

"There are a lot of police cars, over nine I can see."

Motorists have reported a large police presence and big tailbacks. 

Jill Arscott, 59, of South Chailey, said:“We are less than half a mile from the Southerham roundabout, between that one and the Ashcombe roundabout.

“About four or five police cars converged on the scene.

“We have been here about 15 or 20 minutes - maybe even half an hour.

“The police cars have come back travelling west down the eastbound carriageway. Overhead there’s been a police helicopter hovering for some time, 20 minutes perhaps. It’s now gone.

“Seeing it made us think someone might have escaped from Lewes prison.

“The queue must go back way beyond the university.

“We’ve got lorry drivers and coach drivers walking around the carriageway.

“They suggested on the radio that they might be turning traffic back further back."

Anyone who witnessed the collision or any of the incidents leading up to it is asked to report online or call 101 quoting Operation Raydon.