Boy, 4, wiped blood from mum's face after thug stamped on girlfriend leaving her with broken nose

Owen Harris leaving Teesside Magistrates' Court in a previous appearance
-Credit: (Image: Teesside Live)

A drugged-up violent thug chased a taxi driver down the street and punched him, before driving off in his taxi.

Owen Harris, 21, also subjected his girlfriend to a brutal attack in front of her son. The four-year-old boy was left wiping blood off his mum's face, as she lay on the floor once Harris fled. He then told the police what had happened.

Harris appeared at Teesside Crown Court on video link from Durham prison on Tuesday morning, where he has spent the last few month in solitary confinement.

The court heard that a taxi driver pulled up in the early hours of April 8, last year, expecting to pick up six passengers. Cainan Lonsdale, prosecuting, said that the driver wound down his window to check that Harris, who was standing on the street with one other man, was the person who had booked him.

Harris then leant into the window, and grabbed the man's jumper. The driver feared he was going to be attacked. He got out of his car and ran up the street. Harris chased him down and punched him twice in the neck. He then got into the man's taxi and drove off.

Mr Lonsdale told the court that the police blockaded Harris's path on Cargo Fleet Lane, in Middlesbrough, an hour later, just after 6am. The taxi was damaged and in a statement, the driver said: "I now suffer from excruciating anxiety and have been diagnosed with PTSD.

"I fear going to work as I feel that everybody has the potential to harm me. Before this, I was confident and would work at any time to provide for my family.

"My car as seriously damaged, and I was unable to claim on the insurance because they would likely write it off and I am not in a position to buy another car. I've spent a lot of money getting it repaired and during this time, I've missed a lot of work and the ability to earn."

Harris was bailed by police while they investigated. But on October 26, they received a 999 call from his then-girlfriend.

The two had been on a night out, and she was putting her son to bed, when Harris saw some messages on her phone "that he did not like." Mr Lonsdale said that he grabbed her phone and "then punched her in the face. Whilst she was on the floor she says he was kicking and stamping on her. She remembers her son being in the doorway."

She found her phone and rang 999. Harris was arrested later that day.

The victim was left with a fractured eye socket; a broken nose and a broken wrist, and severe bruising to her eyes and head.

In a statement read out to the court, the victim said: "I was in a relationship with Harris for a few months. During the attack I thought I was going to die.

"For a four-year-old to see this is unfathomable. He wiped the blood off my face and saw me bruised for weeks.

"I've been put on medication for anxiety. I'm struggling to leave the house.

"I've had to return to hospital for metal plates to be inserted in my face and for my nose to be put back in position."

Harris, of Shevington Grove, Marton, admitted robbery and wounding with intent. He was previously in court after he threatened to smash up his aunt's car, in 2021. At the time, his aunt said that she was "worried about Owen's behaviour, as he can become unpredictable."

In mitigation, Duncan McReddie said that both incidents happened after Harris had taken drink and drugs. Mr McReddie told the court that Harris was diagnosed with ADHD years ago, and that as a young adult he was hospitalised for psychotic behaviour.

"He's had a difficult taste of prison," Mr McReddie said. "He's had extensive periods in the segregation unit - after people outside the prison made threats to people inside the prison. It was not his fault.

"Effectively, this has been the solitary confinement of a young man with mental health difficulties. It took the prison over seven months to put him his medication, that he was taking before.

"His visits have been curtailed - he hasn't seen his family for months."

The court heard that Harris had offered to meet with the taxi driver to apologise, as part of the restorative justice programme. Judge Nathan Adams told him: "I've read two psychiatric reports and a probation report about you. I've also read references that say you are kind and helpful. I have to sentence you for much darker aspects of your character.

"The serious assault on your partner - this happened after you had taken drugs, most likely cannabis and cocaine. You repeatedly delivered blows to her. It's not clear if she passed out. There were further blows while she was on the floor.

"Many people have ADHD - it's not an excuse whatsoever for these offences. You later had psychotic episodes, but they were linked to your voluntary use of cannabis.

"You chose to stop taking anti-psychotic medication and instead, you used drink and drugs. Dr Green found that your offences were not linked to your mental illness."

Harris was jailed for six years. He will be eligible for release after serving four years. He was also made the subject of restraining order to protect his ex-girlfriend for the rest of his life.

After the sentencing, PC Hood from Cleveland Police's Domestic Abuse Unit said: “I welcome the sentence that was passed today. The bravery and courage shown from the victim in this case is truly incredible. She has to live with the trauma of what happened every day.

“I’d like to thank the victim for her support throughout the process as well as Middlesbrough Response officers PC Appleton and PC Sell for their help. They both responded brilliantly to this incident initially and obtained all the crucial evidence at the scene.

“Domestic violence is taken extremely seriously within Cleveland Police and this behaviour will not be tolerated. I sincerely hope the victim and her young son can recover from this and the sentence handed today has given them some sort of justice.”

You can report to Cleveland Police at any time of day or night via the 101 number, or online via our website. (Always use 999 in an emergency).