Robber's threat to put cabbie 'in his grave' in terrifying knifepoint mugging

Two men have been jailed for a total of six-and-a-half years after subjecting a taxi driver to a terrifying knifepoint robbery. Luke Richardson, aged 29, and James Abbotts, aged 32, carried out the mugging after ordering the cabbie to take them to various locations as they hunted for a missing bag containing phones, drugs and cash.

But Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard they became aggressive and Richardson pulled out a knife and tapped the driver on his shoulder and demanded he hand over cash. The victim handed over £180 from his centre console and was so affected by his ordeal he had a month off work.

Now Richardson has been jailed for three-and-a-half years and Abbotts was locked up for three years. Prosecutor Annabel Hale said the victim collected both defendants from an address in Middleport at 6.05am on June 20 last year.

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Richardson got in the rear driver's side. The driver remembered them from previous occasions and had not had any problems with them.

Miss Hale said: "Both were talking to him about a bag they had left in another taxi. Richardson said it contained drugs, phones and money. They were trying to contact Magnum Taxis to get it back.

"Richardson requested they go for cash and directed the driver to a petrol station. He found himself on High Lane, Burslem, and decided to stop at the Co-op. He drove on to the car park.

"Richardson got out and went to the doors of the Co-op. They were shut. He did not get to the cashpoint and returned to the vehicle."

Robber Luke Richardson.
Robber Luke Richardson was jailed at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court. -Credit:Staffordshire Police

The court heard Abbotts had contacted Magnum and they arranged to meet another taxi. When it arrived they both got out the cab and went to the other taxi. But within seconds they returned.

Miss Hale said: "Richardson was sat behind the taxi driver. Abbotts was in the rear passenger seat. They did not have the bag. Richardson said, 'Just drive'. Both seemed aggressive and more agitated.

"They were again on the phone to Magnum Taxis. They said, 'We have got one of yours here. We are going to put him in his grave'. The driver tried to explain he did not work for Magnum.

"Richardson said, 'We are taking all your money and your car. I want at least £200'. The driver felt a tap on his shoulder and then his neck. He noticed Richardson holding a knife. He was too scared to turn around.

"He stopped his taxi on Watlands View, Porthill. There was £180 in the centre console. Abbotts grabbed the money out his hand. Abbotts was smirking and laughed at him. The defendants ran off down Heaton Terrace."

Police identified the defendants from CCTV. In a victim statement the taxi driver said he no longer likes his job. He said £280 was stolen - £180 for the service of the car and taxi fare money - and he was left feeling angry and emotional.

Both men pleaded guilty to robbery. Abbotts entered his plea on a basis he was not aware Richardson was in possession of a knife.

Simon Rippon, mitigating for Richardson, of Everest Road, Kidsgrove, said his client had a crack cocaine addiction for some years. He said there were drugs in the missing bag, but not to supply to others. He added that Richardson had no previous convictions for robbery.

James Abbotts.
James Abbotts admitted robbery. -Credit:Staffordshire Police

Catherine O'Reilly, mitigating for Abbotts, of no fixed address, said he was remorseful. She added: "He knew he would be arrested and sent back to prison. He clearly did not think through the consequences of his actions."

Judge Michael Maher said: "The victim is a hard-working man. He works long and unsociable hours. Every day he puts himself in a vulnerable position to provide a service to this community.

"You, Richardson, had left a bag containing phones, drugs and money in another cab. You threatened to put him in his grave. No wonder he felt so terrified. Richardson, you demanded £200 from him. You tapped him on the shoulder, under the neck area, with a knife. He handed over every penny in his possession.

"You were acting together. This was a joint enterprise. But Richardson, you were doing more of the talking, you produced the knife, these were your drugs."

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