Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

TAXI THUGS JAILED; Robbers Threatened Cabbie with Dog

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

TAXI THUGS JAILED; Robbers Threatened Cabbie with Dog

Article excerpt

Byline: GARETH LIGHTFOOT

TWO robbers who threatened a taxi driver with a broken bottle and a dog and then stole his takings begin their first sentences behind bars today.

A Teesside Crown Court judge sounded a warning about the perils of mixing drink and drugs as he locked up Craig McKittrick and Michael Johnson for three years each.

They came up to cabbie Rifat Ali as he read a book waiting for his next fare on Cranmore Road, Middlesbrough.

McKittrick, 19, knocked on the driver's window, talked to Mr Ali about supposedly waiting for a taxi, then suddenly launched the attack.

"Without warning he grabbed the glass of the window and pulled it outwards, causing it to smash," said prosecutor Matthew Bean yesterday. "He produced a broken glass bottle and thrust it into the window, putting it close to Mr Ali's face. He threatened to kill him unless he gave him his money."

Johnson, 22, standing nearby with a "large dog", lifted the animal on to the door sill and used the beast to threaten Mr Ali. He repeatedly punched Mr Ali in the face when the motorist recognised him as a customer at a restaurant where he used to work. Amid more threats from McKittrick, Mr Ali handed over his cloth money bag which contained pounds 120. Mr Ali was also racially abused during his ordeal on the night of May 10 last year. After the robbers ran off, he was in such a state that he couldn't drive his taxi and had to be given a lift back to base.

The assailants were caught, arrested and identified after they ran into an address on Chertsey Avenue. After initially claiming it was a case of mistaken identity, McKittrick, of Arundel Green, and Johnson, of Cheriton Green, both Pallister Park, admitted the robbery. In their defence, it was said they acted out of character, accepted responsibility and realised the consequences of their actions for Mr Ali. …

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