A city taxi driver was left in a state of severe shock this week after a drunk and abusive passenger suddenly pulled out a large hunting knife which was strapped to his leg and threatened him with it.
Believing that he was in danger, the terrified taxi driver immediately pressed a panic button alerting taxi colleagues and gardai to the potentially dangerous events that were unfolding in the early hours of last Sunday morning at a housing estate in Riverside, Tuam Road.
The sounding of the panic button alerted other taxi drivers in the vicinity, who all rushed to the scene to protect their terrified colleague. Drivers are cognisant of the potential dangers posed by violent passengers after the murder over a decade ago of their colleague Eileen Costello-O’Shaughnessy, a case which remains unsolved.
It is believed that at 5am the taxi brought the man to the destination however, there was difficulty in finding the address.
After handing the driver money for the fare the passenger, who was drunk, then suddenly reached down to get hold of a hunting knife which was strapped to his leg and proceeded to threaten the driver with it.
As this was happening, the quick-thinking driver pressed the panic button which sent out the alert. Within just a few minutes a number of other taxi drivers who were in the area converged on the scene. The taxis surrounded the taxi in which the alleged assailant was a passenger and he got out of the car. The taxis were quickly followed by garda squad cars and the man, who was standing in the street by this time, was arrested.
A spokesperson for Galway Garda Station confirmed that the taxi driver, who had been called to pick up a man in Doughiska and bring him to Riverside, was threatened with a knife, a situation which resulted in a panic button being pressed.
The alleged assailant, a 31-year-old foreign national with an address in Doughiska, was arrested and brought to Galway Garda station and subsequently charged with an offence under Section 9(5 ) of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act.
He was also charged with threatening and abusive behaviour and being intoxicated in a public place. The man was later released on his own bail and is due to appear at Galway District Court on November 15 next to meet the charges.
A garda spokesperson said that although this was undoubtedly a “frightening occurrence” for the taxi driver this level of violence in the city is very rare.
Witnesses said that the man was acting bizarrely at the scene, taking photographs of the commotion with his mobile phone.
Panic buttons in taxi are now commonplace in some taxi companies in the city.
They were introduced as concerns grew about the potential dangers posed by late night passengers.
The Galway taxi industry was shocked by the murder of Eileen Costello-O’Shaughnessy in 1997.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
There is no connection between that incident and this week’s.