A taxi driver has been hailed a hero after he saved a teenage girl from a paedophile armed with knives, tape and sleeping pills.
Cabbie Satbir Arora had picked up the 13-year-old girl, who was dressed in school uniform, from Bicester in Oxfordshire and took her to Gloucester station.
Twisted Sam Hewings, 24, planned to abduct the 13-year-old schoolgirl after she was dropped off and had already discussed kidnapping, sedating and raping a victim on online forums.
When no one arrived to meet the girl, the taxi driver asked her for more information but when pressed she declined to say more.
Mr Arora called his wife – who he co-runs a taxi firm with – to ask for advice.
Aware that the girl was not being fully truthful about the reasons for her journey, he asked her to speak to his wife. She established that her parents were unaware of her plans and called the police.
Mr Arora telephoned the person his passenger had said was going to meet her – and made recordings of the call.
In fact, the booking had been made by Hewings, who intended to abduct the schoolgirl, and those recordings became vital evidence in court.
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Last week, Hewings was sentenced to a total of five years in prison for attempted abduction, and the distribution and making of indecent images.
Online chat logs presented to Gloucester Crown Court revealed Hewings’ paedophilic tendencies and showed he had discussed kidnapping, sedating and raping a victim.
When police arrested him at his home they found a rucksack containing knives, duct tape and co-codamol tablets.
Mr Arora, 39, has now been presented with a certificate of outstanding achievement by Cherwell District Council, the taxi licensing authority in Bicester.
He received safeguarding training from the council just months before the incident in December 2016.
He said: “The training was really useful. Because of the cases we read about on the safeguarding course I was able to recognise the signs and quickly spot that it was a grooming case.”
Mr Arora has also had praise heaped on him by Gloucestershire Police, who said his actions almost certainly prevented the girl coming to serious harm.
Detective Constable Ian Bennett of Gloucestershire Police said: “I cannot praise the taxi driver enough for his actions in this case. He undoubtedly saved harm from coming to the girl and provided vital evidence for the prosecution.
“Safeguarding training for taxi drivers is hugely important as this case highlights, and it’s good to see it happening in other parts of the country.”