December 7 2013 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
Monday, August 12, 2013
A TAXI driver was punched and kicked into a water filled dyke before scrambling back to the roadside, robbed and left semi conscious as his attackers fled in his car.
Tony Slabber, 49, his eye swollen and his body racked with pain, forced himself to walk the short distance to Upwell where two passers by spotted him and called for an ambulance.
The attack happened in the early hours of Saturday after Mr Slabber picked up two men from outside The Case in Wisbech and asked to be taken to a farm at Outwell.
He said they repeatedly changed their minds about which farm they wanted to go to “and it was then I started to get a little suspicious.
“I turned round to speak to them after one shouted out ‘sick sick’. I pulled over, he got out and sank to his knees and I heard him being ill.”
Mr Slabber said he then got out of the car himself but as he moved towards the rear “his mate was there and moved so fast all I can remember is feeling his fist bang in my face.
“I couldn’t grab onto anything and I went down. They were then both on their feet, kicking and attacking me. Next I remember is feeling the grass and I realised I must have tumbled into the dyke.
“Then I felt water and thought ‘help’ if I pass out now I could drown,
“I scrambled back up the side of the dyke, crawling towards the edge and then they started all over again, this time shouting ‘money, money’”.
Mr Slabber said he gave them his £180 night’s takings (“it had been a long but good night till then”), plus £70 float and a further £20 in loose change he kept separately.
“And for that they nearly killed me,” he said.
He said once they had stolen his money “I lay there letting them think I had had it. I must have been on the ground for several minutes before I heard my car shoot off.
“I dabbed my face, eventually got to my feet and then started along the A1101 as best I could and heading for the village.”
He believes the two men were Latvians because when he had mentioned to them earlier about being sick in his car one of them said “no, no I once a taxi driver in Latvia”.
Mr Slabber believes they displayed a ruthless streak by stripping the car of anything that made it immediately recognisable as a taxi. They threw away his council taxi plate, removed the taxi sign and also ripped out the sat nav.
“They may have been drunk but definitely not drunk enough not to know what they were doing,” he said. “I am not sure they planned to rob me when they got into the car but if they decided on it later they sure did know what they were doing. Anything traceable they got rid off- they even stole my phone to ensure I couldn’t summon help.”
Mr Slabber, with an English mother and a South African father, once had dual nationality after moving to Cape Town when he was three months old and living there till he was in his 20s.
He went to college and later spent five years in the South African army, coming to England to work as a farm manager for some years before opening a driving school 20 years ago and then working additionally as a taxi driver for the past five years.
“What goes through my head is I should have had a gun,” he said. “I don’t do guns although I did do so in South Africa. All I know is that in future there will be some changes.”
His wife Elizabeth, a former Polish student who met and married her husband after she worked on the Norfolk farm he managed, said she always worried at night about his safety.
“I am very grateful he’s in one piece- when I got the knock on the door I was expecting awful news.”
She added: “Tony is not a quitter but I realise things could have ended up worse”.
Wisbech councillor Dave Patrick, also chairman of the local taxi drivers’ association, said he and his colleagues were offering a £500 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
“This was a heinous and despicable attack and robbery,” he said.
Det Con Emma Cross, who is investigating the incident, said: “This was a nasty attack on a man who was merely trying to earn a living. As well as having to receive hospital treatment the victim has been left very shaken by what happened to him.
“We are very keen to speak to anyone who recognises the description of either male or who may have spotted the victim in the area after the attack or seen the vehicle in the vicinity of Wisbech.”
One of the males was described as being around 5ft 11in tall, having tanned skin, being of slim build, aged 23 to 25 with dark brown short hair and was clean shaven. He wore dark tracksuit bottoms, a T-shirt and trainers.
The other male was described as being slightly shorter, with a paler complexion, of stocky build and aged in his early 20s. He had short blonde straight hair and was also clean shaven. He was wearing cropped jeans to around knee length and a multi-coloured top mainly white, orange and yellow in colour.
Officers are keen to speak to anyone who believes they may recognise the description of either male or have any information relating to what happened.
Witnesses are asked to contact Det Con Cross at King’s Lynn CID on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Mr Slabber’s silver Vauxhall Vectra taxi was found abandoned close to Thomas Clarkson School in Corporation Road, Wisbech some 12 hours after the attack.