at night but how safe are you travelling home?
Inside Out conducts a special investigation into the
dangers posed by bogus taxi drivers.
We reveal how some bogus operators
are deliberately preying on young women.
Ten years ago 22-year-old Rachel
Thacker was brutally murdered in Manchester after getting into a bogus taxi.
the culture of binge drinking means more women than ever before are dicing with
danger when they try to get a lift home.
We have learned that sex attacks
linked to taxis are happening almost every fortnight in the Greater Manchester
Inside Out also has evidence which shows private hire vehicles are
regularly breaking the law by stopping to pick up passengers for unbooked journeys.
Manchester has a huge
number of taxis and private hire vehicles which serve an important role in getting
people home safely, especially late at night.
On a busy Saturday night there's
100,000 people in the city enjoying themselves.
The trouble is there's
just over 900 black cabs and 2,000 private hire taxis to take them home, and a
limited number of free buses running through the night.
The Council maintains
there's enough taxis for everyone.
no doubt in my mind there's men out there posing as taxi drivers - just waiting
to prey on vulnerable young women
Supt Mick Lay|
But some women are so drunk or desperate to
get home after a night out, they are prepared to risk their lives by taking lifts
home with strangers rather than waiting for licensed cabs.
this "night hiking", but by doing it, women are taking enormous risks.
are also many more women who are conned into thinking that bogus cabs are registered
So we sent in an undercover team from Inside Out.
stood on a corner at Deansgate Locks opposite an official taxi rank.
minutes a man driving a white car stopped - it was not a taxi.
another car stopped and offered to take our team home for £15 - once again
he was not a taxi.
graduate Rachel Thacker was murdered by a bogus taxi driver in 1996.
battered and burned body was found behind the George and Dragon pub in in Ardwick,
Manchester, eight days after she disappeared.
Her body was found a mile
away from where she was last seen.
Rachel had travelled to Manchester for
a friend's 21st birthday party.
Thacker - tragic victim of a bogus taxi driver|
And then Rachel
made a mistake that was to cost her life - she mistakenly took a bogus cab home.
Lynch had been out drinking with Rachel and friends:
this car pulling up and Rachel opening the door and jumping in
I feel so
I had my hand on the car door
The car was driven
by Duncan Bermingham, a man with a record of domestic violence.
out that night posing as a taxi driver.
Former police Detective Supt Bob
Huntbach, who was in charge of the murder inquiry, says that it was one of the
worst murders Manchester Police has ever seen.
Rachel could only
be identified by her fingerprints.
At the trial it emerged Bermingham had
borrowed the car he used from a friend to pose as a taxi driver.
was found guilty of Rachel's murder - he was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years
on, many women still think nothing will happen to them if they get into a bogus
But for Susan the danger was all too real.
She agreed to tell
her story as a warning to others - we have changed her name and protected her
Susan is 38-years-old - last year she got into a car that stopped
near Canal Street in Manchester.
"I went out with some
work colleagues; I'd had a good night but had too much to drink and wanted to
"I got into what I thought was a taxi and he drive me and
a colleague home'
'We dropped the male colleague off first and then dropped
me off. He helped me to the door and he said he would close the door for me -
I kept saying thank you to him."
The driver took her home
and then raped her.
"The next thing I remember was waking up and seeing
his face in my face - I knew I was being attacked, I just blacked out with fear,"
'I thought I was going to be killed. The fear of knowing
someone else was in my home - I thought he was going to kill me - it was a fear
that I just can't describe."
Susan's attacker was caught by the police
and sentenced to 11 years in jail.
But the experience has left her traumatised.
took away a lot of things to me - my right of saying yes or no - which ever woman
has a right to do,
"I still feel like I don't trust anyone - especially
taxis. I've got to live with this for the rest of my life. It hurts that all he
got was a prison sentence and I got a life sentence.
"I was a really
confident person beforehand - now every day is a struggle to try and feel comfortable
and confident about myself. I always believed it would never happen to me.
night was just an innocent night out and it turned into a nightmare that will
stay with me for the rest of my life."
"I would beg
any woman out there to be extra cautious about how they are getting home,"
Talon has been set up by Greater Manchester Police to try to prevent sex crimes
in the force area.
Part of their role is to deal with the threat from bogus
Out's researchers were approached by bogus cabs|
revealed here for the first time by Inside Out, show that in the last year 22
sex attacks are being linked to taxis and private hire cars across the Greater
And these are just the reported crimes - the tip of the
The man in charge of the operation is Detective Superintendent
Mick Lay who has no illusions about what the police are up against:
predators out there looking for vulnerable women."
Jones is a black hackney cab driver who has been campaigning against bogus cabs
for the last 15 years.
In 1991 he formed a voluntary group who successfully
prosecuted over 200 bogus drivers called 'the organisation':
the time I was very angry personally something could have been done to make the
risk less for Rachel, and nothing's been done 10 years on
It made me angry."
The police and the City Council Licensing Office are responding
to the problem of the pirate taxis.
Operation Aviano is targetting the
drivers who come into the city.
For the last few months the team has
been gathering information about some drivers who've been seen repeatedly coming
into the city centre at night.
established their routes and patterns of movement - they are now Aviano's top
Taxi touting is a recordable offence and that could be a crucial
breakthrough for the Aviano team.
Police know that there are a small number
of people who are sexual offenders operating as bogus taxi drivers.
from Aviano go out working as couples on the streets looking for bogus drivers.
They've got uniform officers as back up close by, and while they're waiting,
the CCTV cameras are busy watching.
The Printworks is one of the hotspot
areas for bogus taxis in the city centre, and is a major focus for their operations.
The city is also trying to reduce the risk posed by
bogus drivers by introducing an award scheme called Best Bar None.
designed to encourage bars and clubs to take a responsible attitude towards the
safety of their customers.
Supt Mick Lay warns of predators on the streets|
a night cafe and chill out venue which provides music, food and a cab booking
Late night revellers can relax safely at the shelter until their
The huge volume of people in the city has created a situation
where many private hire taxis are now breaking the law by picking up people on
We filmed people stopping and bartering with private hire taxis
before getting in and driving off.
Our researchers were also offered several
unbooked lifts home, although it clearly stated on the cars that this should not
Rachel Christie, the head of Manchester City Council's Environmental Services
department responsible for taxi licensing, to come and see the results of our
She responded as follows:
very high standards for our existing taxi drivers and we're obviously undertaking
action at every weekend we're out there undertaking enforcement against these
"Anything we do is also very much with the help of the
public so if anybody knows of anything then please let us know
but we will
take action.. as you've seen on the video footage that you've already taken..."
is why we're taking the enforcement action because we really want to stamp this
"People should not be doing this and particularly women on their
own , or just a couple of women, are really at risk when they're doing this..."
what we do is undertake prosecutions against them because they are taking people
and they are uninsured so we do take action against them.
"And it is
disappointing to see that this is still happening so we need to continue to take
the enforcement action."
TIPS FOR SAFE TAXI JOURNEYS
Do - check that the taxi has a taxi registration
plate on its rear bumper.
Do - check that the plate matches the
Do - check for signs identifying which company
the taxi comes from.
Do - carry the telephone number of a trusted,
Do - share a taxi with a friend. Sit in the back
of the car behind the driver.
Do - ask to see the driver’s identity
badge if it is not displayed.
Do - ask the taxi company the name
of the driver when you book - and check this on the taxi's arrival.
- flag down a suspicious car which doesn't look like it has full taxi registration
details, even if you're desperate and there's a long queue for registered cabs.
Read the advice
in our safety fact file or find out more in our web link to the Suzy Lamplugh
Preventative action is important so always double check the credentials
of a taxi and its driver.
Better still, always carry the phone details of
a reputable company that you can trust.
Make sure you save this phone number
on your mobile phone.
Share a cab with a friend, if you live close by.
get talking to the cab driver about overtly personal details.
If you get
into a taxi and you feel threatened, trust your instincts and get out of the cab,
but make sure you have a good escape plan.
Ask the driver to stop in a busy
area - if the driver refuses, use a mobile phone to call the police.
things get difficult, alert other drivers and pedestrians by waving or calling
out the window.
the Suzy Lamplugh Trust Advice guide on taxis
If you are the victim of a bogus taxi attack and need
to talk to someone, call the Victim Support Helpline on 0845 30 30 900.