Disgust, horror at driver bashing

By Sandra Conchie

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Two men who rushed to aid a Tauranga taxi driver being brutally bashed have spoken about their disgust and horror at the attack.

Police were called to Ohauiti Rd just before midnight on Wednesday where a 40-year-old Tauranga Mount Taxis driver had been attacked and robbed.

The driver had picked up four male passengers in Welcome Bay.

Upon arriving at their destination, the driver was bashed inside his taxi before the assault continued on the roadside.

He was treated at Tauranga Hospital for head injuries and severe bruising before being discharged on Thursday.

Two 30-year-old Ohauiti Rd residents, who wished only to be known as Richard and Kev, said it was a vicious, brutal beating, which had sickened them both.

Richard was walking through his lounge when he heard loud, piercing screams outside.

"At first I thought it was a woman screaming but then I realised it was a taxi driver in trouble.

He was yelling out 'help, police, help, help'.

"When I looked down to the road I saw two men taking turns bashing up the driver in the middle of road."

The driver's turban had been ripped from his head .

Richard woke his flatmate Kev, who grabbed a piece of wood, and they both ran downstairs where Richard grabbed one of the attackers and later grabbed another who was rifling through the taxi.

The first man immediately claimed he had done nothing. "It was just deny, deny," Richard said.

Kev said: "They were using the man as a punching bag and hitting him with haymaker swings, and some of the hits were definitely landing. It was disgusting."

Both men managed to escape, running through properties and jumping fences to get away.

Other residents joined Richard and Kev in the pursuit, trying to persuade the men to give up.

Richard said chasing one of the men down was like "hunting a pig through the bush and flushing him out".

Both residents said it was an "awesome" community effort.

"We don't think of ourselves as heroes as many other people in the street were also involved. Catching these scumbags and low-lifes was important and so satisfying," said Kev.

Another resident said her son had reacted after hearing the driver's screams.

"But I wouldn't describe his cries as screams. He was bellowing [with] horrific piercing screams of terror ... The look on his face was horrific.

"It was a look of sheer terror and he was dazed and bloodied, and badly bruised.

"He is very lucky he wasn't more seriously injured, for sure."

Her son and husband administered first-aid to the driver until an ambulance arrived.

"He was very appreciative and kept saying 'thank you, thank you'."

Officer in charge Detective Sergeant Iain Chapman said he urged the other two men who were in the taxi to come forward, rather than wait until police caught up with them.

Tauranga Mount Taxis operations manager Beth Reece praised the residents who helped the taxi driver and chased down the two arrested men.

"The driver, who was absolutely powerless, was left pretty shocked and very, very sore. I'm absolutely disgusted and pretty lost for words.

"It was a very brutal beating and the driver won't be back to work for a least a week, if he is back at all. We have video footage of what went on in the taxi, and it's sickening viewing."

About 30 local taxi drivers met with Tauranga MP Simon Bridges yesterday to discuss the attack. They put forward several ideas on ways to improve safety for drivers. Mr Bridges told the group he would speak to New Zealand Transport Agency officials.

Timote Manu, 19, and 18-year-old Jared Dixon are facing aggravated robbery charges in connection with the assault. They are due back in Tauranga District Court on Tuesday.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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