A North Warwickshire woman feared she was going to be raped when a taxi driver who had just dropped her off, pulled her back into his car and tried to make her perform a sex act on him.
According to the Tamworth Herald, she put up a struggle and managed to break free from Atherstone-based driver Zaharul Hoque, who later phoned her apologising and asking her to ‘let me off this time.’
Despite the confession implicit in his calls, Hoque, 47, from Castle Bromwich, denied two charges of sexually assaulting her.
But a jury at Warwick Crown Court, who were not aware another woman had also made a complaint against Hoque, found him guilty of the more serious charge by a majority of 10-2.
Hoque, who was cleared of the less serious charge, was remanded in custody after the judge rejected an application for him to be granted bail while a pre-sentence report is prepared.
Prosecutor Walter Bealby said that in April last year, Hoque, who worked for Atherstone Taxis, picked up a woman and her friends after they had been for a night out in Atherstone.
Her friends got in the back, so she sat in the front next to Hoque, who it was alleged stroked her leg during the journey.
The woman told the jury she told him to stop the car, and that she then got out and began to walk home.
“The taxi went past, this was five or ten minutes after I’d got out. No-one else was in it by then, and he asked me to get in if I wanted a lift, and he apologised.
“He kept asking, and would drive past and come back again. I kept saying no, but he apologised, and I didn’t think it would be any problem, so I got in.
“When he dropped her off near her home, Hoque asked her to give him a kiss, but she refused and just blew him a kiss.
“I went to get my keys out, and I turned round, and he’d come from the back of the taxi. He was just there out of nowhere.
“He tried to give me a kiss and grabbed me by the head. He was just generally touching me. His hands were all over me.
“Next thing, he’s just pushed me towards the taxi door, and he’s opened the door and I was inside and he was doing something with the doors.
“I was scared, I didn’t know whether he was going to rape me. He started trying to undo his belt, and I was thinking I don’t know if I’m going to end up in a ditch.”
Sobbing as she continued with her evidence, she said: “I didn’t know whether I was going to get out of there. He said ‘suck it,’ and I got a little bit angry at that point.”
She began to struggle, and managed to get out of the car, tripping as she ran to her home, from where she said she phoned the taxi firm and shouted abuse at them over what had happened.
The jury heard she then had the first of three calls from Hoque, pleading: “I do apologise. Do me a favour, don’t complain. I do apologise, I do apologise. Let me off this time.”
There were two further calls in a similar vein, and Mr Bealby told the jury: “The prosecution say they amount, in effect, to an admission by the defendant that he acted inappropriately.”
But when the incident was reported to the police and Hoque was arrested, he claimed there had been no physical contact between them, apart from her giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek when he dropped her off.
He claimed her account was a lie, and that he had made only one call to ask why she was making a complaint against him. And giving evidence, Hoque continued to deny making more than one call, despite Mr Bealby pointing out that his admissions in the calls had been recorded, claiming that caller was not him.
After more than six hours, the jury cleared Hoque of sexually assaulting the woman by touching her leg, but convicted him of the more serious sexual assault.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano agreed to a request from Devon Small, defending, for the case to be adjourned for a pre-sentence report – but rejected an application for bail.
She said: “This is an inevitable custodial sentence. This is a victim who is particularly vulnerable, in that she is a woman on her own in a taxi at night who had had too much to drink.
“He has fought this in the teeth of the evidence which he has repeatedly lied about and done everything he can to avoid a conviction.”
There had originally been a further charge alleging that Hoque had sexually assaulted another woman earlier in the year. But Mr Bealby had withdrawn that charge before the trial began, having told the judge first that that complainant was ‘kicking off’ in the witness support room, and then that she had left the building and was refusing to return to give evidence.