A man was jailed for seven and a half years today (Friday 22 January) after pleading guilty to several robberies and attempted robberies against taxi drivers in Watford.
Reggie Sime, aged 19, of no fixed address, previously pleaded guilty to the following counts on Wednesday 11 November 2020: Two counts of robbery, two counts of attempted robbery, four counts of possession of an offensive weapon (liquid ammonia).
St Albans Crown Court heard how Sime targeted a number of taxi drivers for money in Watford in late September and early October last year by throwing ammonia in their faces.
Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “These incidents were deeply frightening for the taxi drivers affected and my thoughts are with them. People should be able to go about their daily business free from any fear of violence or loss of their livelihood.
“I am pleased that through the proactive work of the police a person has been sentenced in connection with these offences. We will not tolerate criminal activity in our town and we will continue to work with the local police to keep the town safe for everyone.”
The first offence was in the early hours of Monday 21 September, when Sime booked a taxi from an address in Norwich, Norfolk, to take him to Harris Road in Watford. On arrival, Sime exited the vehicle and approached the driver’s window to demand money. He sprayed ammonia in the victim’s face which caused him immediate pain. The victim, aged in his 40s, was in fear and handed over £165 in cash to Sime before calling the emergency services for help.
Five days later, on Saturday 26 September, a taxi driver went to collect a fare from Gullett Wood Road. On arrival, Sime approached the vehicle and opened the passenger door before threatening the victim. He demanded money and poured ammonia in his lap, causing a burning sensation to his nose and throat. The victim, a man in his 50s, was scared and handed over a holdall containing his wallet and £170 cash. He immediately drove to a friend’s address where he sought help. His holdall and wallet were later recovered by a dog walker who alerted police on Wednesday 30 September.
Sime attempted another robbery two days later, on Monday 28 September, outside Costcutter in Orbital Crescent. A taxi driver arrived to collect Sime, who opened the passenger door and began demanding money. He threw a liquid in the victim’s face, which immediately caused his eyes to sting. The victim tried to get out of the vehicle but Sime ran around the front of the car and pulled the driver’s door open before throwing more liquid in the victim’s face. The victim, aged in his 40s, began to chase Sime down the road but had to stop due to his vision becoming blurred. He sought medical treatment, on numerous occasions, for vision complications as a result of Sime’s actions. Nothing was stolen during the robbery.
The fourth, and final offence, was committed on Thursday 1 October, when Sime ordered a taxi to collect him outside an address on Rushton Avenue. When the driver arrived, Sime opened the passenger door and demanded money before spraying ammonia in the victim’s face. The victim, aged in his 30s, was concerned for his safety so immediately drove off and returned to the taxi office, where he washed his face. Nothing was stolen during the robbery. The victim’s colleagues called the police and he attended hospital to receive treatment. In his statement, he said he was in so much pain that he thought he’d been attacked with acid.
Sime was soon identified as a suspect via his phone number, which he had used to call the taxi in two of the offences. Sime became wanted by police and initial arrest enquiries were carried out at a number of locations but were unsuccessful. On Tuesday 20 October, Sime handed himself in at Watford police station where he was promptly arrested, charged and remanded in custody.
Detective Constable Andy Metselaar, from the Watford Local Crime Unit, led the investigation. He said: “The four victims were men simply doing their job and earning a living when they were callously attacked by Sime. I would first like to publicly pay tribute to the victims and the wider taxi community, who gave us such fantastic support during the course of our investigation.
“The third victim had vision complications with both his eyes for a period of time, and he still continues to suffer from occasional discomfort now. The other three victims also suffered initial pain, redness and swelling following the attack and were off work for a period of time. Thankfully all four victims have been able to return to work, but it could have easily been a different story.
“Sime’s actions were despicably cruel and provides an insight into the sort of person he is. I sincerely hope he uses his prison sentence as time to reflect on why he chose to attack four innocent people in pursuit of money. No one should feel in fear when they go to work and I hope today’s sentencing provides each of the victims with a sense of closure on their ordeal.”