Five accused of race attackBy Paul Cassell & Linda Fort
January 06, 2012
An Asian taxi driver was punched in the face and racially abused by five young men who smashed his cab after a row over a fare, a court heard.
Reading Crown Court heard on Tuesday how Mohammed Ali was attacked after stopping outside Apex Plaza in Forbury Road on January 31, last year.
Andrew Biart, 21, Jack Boswood-Nunn, 19, James Hodges, 22, Thomas Jackson, 22, and Maximillian Merrall-Wyre, 21, are charged with racially aggravated assault and racially aggravated criminal damage.
At the trial's opening on Tuesday Damian van Duyvenbode, prosecuting, said: “He [Mr Ali] was punched in the face by the person directly behind the passenger seat [Merrall-Wyre].
“This was really the catalyst for rest of the defendants to react violently, punching and kicking inside the cab.”
Mr van Duyvenbode earlier told how Mr Ali had been working that evening when he was approached by Biart, Boswood-Nunn and Hodges at 11pm while he was waiting at the taxi rank in Station Hill.
They asked to be taken to a BP petrol station in Wokingham and a second drop-off in Forest Road.
Realising they were drunk Mr Ali told them he wanted £25 in advance to cover their fare but all parties eventually agreed to a £20 charge.
The group handed over the £20 but one of the fivers was ripped in half which Mr Ali refused causing some tension between the three passengers.
A couple of them got out and made a phone call before the remaining one called them back in and they began their journey.
Mr Ali noticed one of them was still on his mobile phone and turned on the intercom and heard them say, “Where are you? This f***ing P*** wants us to pay up front”.
He stopped the cab outside Apex Plaza in Forbury Road before he was asked by the group to make another unspecified stop to which he asked for a further £5.
The court heard one of the group told Mr Ali to shut his mouth before they were joined in the cab by Jackson and Merrall-Wyre and the driver continued asking for the extra money.
Mr van Duyvenbode said Merrall-Wyre then punched and threatened Mr Ali saying, “Move your cab you f***ing P*** or I will f*** you up”.
The group then became aggressive in the back of the cab before getting out kicking the outside of the taxi.
They tried to open the driver's door before Mr Ali got out and all five punched him causing bruising.
As he tried to get back into the cab and close the door two of the men forced it open.
This resulted in a stand off with other Asian men armed with poles before police arrived on the scene.
Under cross examination Mr Ali said one of the defendants had not punched him in the face, but had punched the glass partition in the taxi, breaking it and the broken glass had hit him in the face causing his lip to swell.
He said the man who did this was sitting in the tip-up seat behind the front passenger seat.
When questioned by Peter Binder, defending Merrqll-Wyre, he said Merrall-Wyre was not sitting in that seat but was on the back seat of the cab.
When asked why his account differed from the account in his statement which referred to a punch in the face, he said he was "in shock" when he gave his statement shortly after the incident.
He said the one who punched the glass had "a beauty mark or spot" on the left of his mouth.
Mr Binder asked him if "eight or 10" other taxi drivers with weapons including sticks and a metal pole had launched an attack on the defendants.
He responded: "I did not see anyone with weapons."
Mr Binder also accused Mr Ali of exaggerating the words used by the defendants in his evidence before the jury compared with the statement he made to police.
Mr Ali responded he did tell the police at the time.
Biart, of Ashton Road, Wokingham, Boswood-Nunn, of Lowther Road, Wokingham, Hodges, of Woodward Close, Winnersh, Jackson, of Savory Walk, Binfield, and Merrall-Wyre, of Nash Park, Binfield, all deny the charges.
The trial continues.