Taxi driver attacked and robbed passenger, court told
A TAXI driver robbed a passenger and broke his collar bone using a sweeping brush and toy trailer in a dispute over a €15 fare, a court heard yesterday.
Passenger Michael L'Estrange told Ennis Circuit Court in Co Clare yesterday how a taxi driver assaulted him and robbed him of €70 after they argued over a €15 fare.
Taxi driver Okechukwu Utuke (44), of Dun na hInse, Ennis, denies the assault causing harm and the robbery of Mr L'Estrange on April 25, 2010.
Mr L'Estrange said he had been out in Ennis with friends and had drunk four to five pints.
He was walking home when he hailed down a taxi on the Tulla Road to bring him home to the Gort na mBlath housing estate.
Mr L'Estrange said the fare from Ennis town centre to his home at Gort na mBlath was usually €7.50 but the taxi-driver demanded €15 for the fare.
"I told him 'no'," he said. "I wasn't paying that and I threw €10 down on the front passenger seat and got out of the car.
"The next thing the taxi driver jumped on top of me, had me down on the ground and kept digging into me with his fists. I was asking him to 'leave me alone'. I couldn't get up, I was winded."
Mr L'Estrange said the taxi driver then hit him with an implement, although he couldn't say what it was.
The driver reached into the pocket of his jeans and took €70 from him before leaving.
Mr L'Estrange told the court that he was punched six or seven times and hit twice with an implement. He said he suffered a fractured collar bone and bruised ribs.
Eyewitness Elaine Shanahan said she saw a man striking Mr L'Estrange with a sweeping brush and a toy trailer that were in a neighbour's garden.
Ms Shanahan said she was watching the incident from the top floor of her home and: "I was horrified looking at this man hitting this person on the ground.
"The man hit him a number of times with the toy trailer and then picked up a sweeping brush to hit the person on the ground."
She said the incident started at 3am and continued until around 3.10am when she contacted the gardai.
She told the court: "I couldn't get the car registration, but I put the taxi number into my phone and gave that information to the gardai."
Ms Shanahan said that the taxi driver left the scene in his silver Toyota taxi "at high speed".
Counsel for Mr Utuke, Lorcan Connolly BL, said that Mr Utuke had paid two visits to the Gort na Mblath housing estate on the night and in one case a passenger ran off without paying the fare.
Mr Connolly told Mr L'Estrange: "Mr Utuke doesn't know anything about events that you allege about a physical altercation and robbery."
The case continues today.