Court told Endris Mohammed bought three litres of petrol before starting fire in family home
A uber driver killed his two children by smothering them with a petrol soaked rag and then started a blaze while his wife slept upstairs at their home in Birmingham, a court heard
Endris Mohammed who had also tried to cause an explosion by tampering with the gas, fled from the scene.
He then drove to a road in Staffordshire where he was later found near his car suffering from burns.
Mohammed, 47, has denied murdering eight year old Saros and his six year old daughter Leanor as well as attempting to murder his wife Penil Teklehaimanot.
Jonas Hankin QC, prosecuting at Birmingham Crown Court, said: “At 3.37am on October 28 last year the emergency services received the first of many 999 calls.
“They were connected with a house fire at Holland Road, Hamstead the home of the defendant where he lived with his wife and two children.
“They found Saros and Leanor lifeless on the ground outside the house. Both children were in cardiac arrest and both had chemical burns on their faces.”
Mr Hankin said attempts were made to revive them but they were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.
The trial heard that investigators later examined the scene and discovered: “Escape routes had been impeded, the electricity supply had been disabled and attempts had been made to release gas in the property by damaging a gas pipe that supplied the kitchen cooker.”
Mr Hankin added: “The true reason why the defendant killed his children and attempted to kill his wife may never be known. His explanation for killing his children was that they would be better off dead than living without him and it was his intention to commit suicide.”
Mohammed came to the UK in 2006 from Ethiopia and married his wife in the same year. She was employed as a care worker while he got a job with Uber.
On the day before the deaths Mohammed had worked as normal before going to a petrol station and buying a container which he filled with three litres of fuel.
His wife went to bed at around midnight while he was downstairs with their children.
Mr Hankin said Mohammed drove away from the property at around 3.30am and shortly after that his wife was woken by the smoke alarm, came down stairs and put out the fire.
She then went outside but realised her children were still in the house, the court was told
Mr Hankin said she found them in the lounge and thought they were asleep but when they were taken outside it was apparent they were “unconscious and lifeless.”
He said Mohammed had driven up the M6 and parked in a road in Newcastle Under Lyme where he was later discovered near to his vehicle with burns to his head, face and hands.
The court was told that Mohammed, who later said he had desperate and had no money, did not deny killing his children but his defence was based on him suffering from an abnormality of the mind at the time of the offences.
The Ely Standard reports that Ely taxi drivers could be made to wear smart clothes and have more health checks as part of council plans to improve the service
Smart trousers, shirt, shoes and optional tie for men or cravat for women is being suggested alongside a raft of other ideas, including a single colour taxi scheme so that all cabs in the city are silver.
An eight week consultation into the suggestions received just 10 responses from six drivers, two members of the public, a disability group and a council member.
The suggestions are yet to be approved in a meeting of the East Cambs District licensing committee on Wednesday November 8.
If given the go ahead the new rules will come into force on New Year’s Day.
Among the areas looked at were:
• Safeguarding training.
• Dress code.
• A three yearly medical.
• How often cars should be tested.
• A penalty points scheme.
• DBS checks.
A spokesman for East Cambs licensing team said all taxi drivers must complete safe guarding training by the end of next year, new drivers within six months of holding a licence.
A spokesman said: “All existing licence holders will be given opportunities to attend the training free of charge.
“Officers are working with neighbouring councils in an attempt to provide one standard course which will enable drivers to use the training certificate obtained at any participating council to support an application.
One taxi driver said of the one colour scheme said it : “Is a terrible idea.
“The taxi sign is recognised the world over. Tourists will not come to Ely and think, there’s a yellow, green, red car – that must be a taxi.
“At night the one colour scheme will become pointless! Unless the licensing department want us to change the colour to day glo yellow.
“What should be amended is the size of the taxi sign – at the moment there are some really small signs and in the day they are not obvious from a distance.”
The report says that if drivers need more medicals it will mean an eight additional health checks between the age of 21 and 45 and additional three between 45 and 65.
A spokesman said: “Studies have shown that drivers of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles spend large amounts of time in a sedentary position and they have shown that taxi drivers as a group suffer from high levels of chronic disease linked to sedentary lifestyles, poor diet and stress.”
The Evening Standard reports that five Uber drivers fleeced the ride-hailing app out of £10,000 by taking bookings for rides paid for with stolen credit cards, a court heard.
Onome Omonoseh, 19, coordinated the “sophisticated” scam by setting up fake customer accounts to book lengthy journeys, racking up large bills which were charged to stolen credit cards.
Drivers Michael Julien, 50, Dan-Alexandru Pasat, 29, Kamlesh Sagoo, 62, Ibrahim Tekagac, 35, and Mihai Toader, 32, collected the hefty fees, and paid Omonoseh in cash for his part in the scam.
Southwark crown court heard Uber lost up to £10,000 to the fraud between February and December last year.
Omonoseh, the “coordinator”, is only thought to have made £1,760 despite playing a leading role.
“Mr Omonoseh was the main instigator of the frauds against Uber – creating bogus Uber customer accounts on the app and making bogus trips for which drivers were paid,” said prosecutor Stephen Requena.
“The details were taken from a website which sells credit card for fraudulent and criminal purposes.
“GPS location showed the mobile phone handset did not always travel with the drivers and in effect the fraud by Mr Omonoseh and the co-defendants was in collaboration.”
Judge Peter Ader, sentencing, said: “This was a sophisticated operation that took place over a period of time to defraud Uber of their commission and their fee. Each of of you played a part in this operation.”
He sentenced Omonoseh to eight months in a Young Offenders’ Institution and jailed Julien, who was involved in 17 fraudulent trips, for eight months.
Pasat, Tekagac, and Toader were each given six-month prison sentences suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £500 compensation each to Uber.
Sagoo, who made the least amount of money from the scam, was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, and was told to pay Uber £486 in compensation.
Omonoseh, from Islington; Julien, from Southwark; Pasat, from Ilford; Sagoo, of Neasden; Tekagac, from Enfield; and Toader, from Stevenage, Herts, admitted fraud by false representation.
Wolverhampton Council have given a taxi licence to a driver successfully prosecuted for fraud by a neighbouring local authority, it has been revealed.
Officials ignored a warning that the driver broke the terms of the licence granted to him by Sandwell Council by working out of the area covered by the badge, the city’s Crown Court was told.
Several other drivers caught in the same purge and dealt with at a magistrates court were also given licences by Wolverhampton City Council, it was claimed.
Aklilu Tedros pleaded guilty to fraud and received a four month prison sentence suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to do 80 hours unpaid work and pay £800 towards the cost of the case after he elected trial but admitted the offence on the day the hearing was due to start.
The 37-year-old father of four from Eritrea was given a private hire taxi licence after applying to Sandwell Council in March 2015. The local authority – like Birmingham but unlike Wolverhampton – only gives licences to those based and working in the borough.
Tedros, from Gregory Avenue, Weoley Castle, confirmed he would be doing this and gave the name of the local firm he would be working for. Hours after getting the licence he joined a Birmingham taxi company and took his first job.
“He never worked for the taxi company he named in Sandwell and was never going to, ” said Mr Mark Jackson, prosecuting. He explained there was far more work for drivers in Birmingham but the Knowledge test was easier to pass in the smaller, neighbouring borough of Sandwell. Mr Jackson continued: “He never learnt the Birmingham Knowledge and was not subject to Birmingham licensing restrictions.”
The defendant was caught in a crack down by enforcement officers who discovered his licence did not allow him to work in Birmingham. Sandwell were alerted and launched an investigation.
He handed in their badge but was then given a licence by Wolverhampton City Council. Mr Jackson disclosed: “They were told of his breach but that did not seem to matter.”
Mr Richard Davenport, defending, conceded: “He knew what he was doing was fraudulent but he did it because he knew others were doing the same thing. It is very difficult to say how much money he made from the fraud.”
Tedros was told by Judge James Burbidge QC: “You have committed a serious crime. You are a resourceful man who escaped from your country of birth because of the persecution of Evangelical Christians. This was a deliberate fraud and it may be that people around you were committing the same fraud.”
Wolverhampton council has vastly increased the amount of money it receives from the issue of private hire licences after deciding to grant them to drivers working both inside and outside the borough. Critics have claimed the facility is being used as a ‘cash cow’ – a suggestion denied by council officials.
The local authority made over £1.2 million handing out private hire licences in the last year after netting £416,070 during the previous 12 months. In the year 2012/13 it granted just over 600 private hire licences. This figure rose to almost 3,000 last year.
A spokesman for Wolverhampton Council said: “When Mr Tedros applied for his licence with us, we were notified by Sandwell Council that there was a court case pending against him. In accordance with our procedures, We concluded that the allegation posed no imminent risk to public safety and the licence was granted. We have received no complaints about Mr Tedros in the 12 months since he got his licence. We have kept a close eye on the court proceedings and N
“Now that he has been convicted of the offence it will automatically trigger a licence review.”
A fraud conviction would ordinarily result in a licence being revoked, however each case is judged on its specific circumstances and we cannot predetermine what the outcome will be here.”
SOLIHULL is considering joining with other neighbouring authorities who are united in opposition to Wolverhampton’s licensing of Uber taxis uncutting the borough’s licenced cabbies.
The Observer understands West Midlands councils including Solihull are considering a joint approach to government against licensing deregulation which has led to ride-hailing US firms such as Uber driving down prices in Solihull and the region.
Councillors say it has led to a ‘race the the bottom’, with passenger safety compromised by an alleged lack of driver training, and pay and holiday and sickness rights being driven down.
Elsewhere in the region, notably in Coventry, councils are joining with taxi drivers and trades unions to campaign against Wolverhampton’s liberal handing out of licenses to the new ‘out-of-town’ companies, which can operate across council borders.
Yet many passengers have welcomed the lower fares and phone tracking service of App-based Uber.
It includes ‘ride sharing’ and hailing a nearby taxi promptly using a mobile phone.
The company has been banned from London streets over safety fears, while critics have called the clampdown and infringement on the free market, and town hall and union protectionism.
Councils in turn say deregulation has broken the historic link between a local area and taxi licensing based on meeting needs and demand, with democratic accountability through local authorities.
They claim Wolverhampton doesn’t have the same standard of English language requirements, disabilities training, child sexual exploitation training, any local knowledge test, or six- monthly vehicle checks
But more than 800,000 people have signed a petition on the change. org website to save Uber as the firm fights the London ban.
The capital’s transport officials and mayor Sadiq Khan stripped it of its licence. Uber is appealing and it is hoped a compromise can be reached without major job losses among drivers.
Uber claims safety is of the highest importance and drivers go through enhanced background checks.
It claims its technology has gone further to improve safety, with trips tracked and recorded by GPS satellite navigation systems.
London Assembly Tories claim analysis shows Uber is 40 per cent cheaper than black cabs, and a ban will cost Londoners an extra £90million a year in fares.
Max McLoughlin, Solihull Green councillor, said: “This is a serious problem. We give a great deal of power to taxi drivers. We let them drive in places that other cars can’t. We allow them alone, in a locked space, with vulnerable people. It’s only right that a local authority says who can and can’t drive a taxi there.”
“This isn’t the case anymore and we’re seeing a race to the bottom on standards and safety. Councils like Solihull, who prioritise safety, end up losing out financially.
“This isn’t a problem with one local council or taxi company. This is a problem with one piece of legislation passed in 2015.
“If Solihull council aren’t satisfied that someone should have a taxi license, why should we have to pay for them when they appear on our streets?
“It means that council tax payers in Solihull are subsidising another local authority on a get rich quick scheme.”
“The responsibility lies with government and our MPs. They’ve made local authorities so cash poor that some will tread on others to balance the books. Not only that, they’ve also given them the tools to do so in the Deregulation Act 2015.”
The Institute of Licensing (IoL) has written to the Government to raise concerns about failings in the taxi and private hire licensing system that is putting public safety at risk.
IoL President, James Button, said in the letter:
“We are aware that there is currently much discussion ongoing in relation to the licensing of taxi and private hire drivers, operators and vehicle owners, including the recently established working party by Minister of State John Hayes MP. We are conscious that any discussions must seriously consider the adequacies of current arrangements concerning criminality checks, data sharing and ability of licensing authorities and police practitioners to identify concerns relating to licensed individuals and those seeking to be licensed with a view to maintaining public safety and taking appropriate action as necessary.”
The letter addressed to the Home Office, DfT, National Police Chiefs Council and the chairman of the newly established Taxi and Private Hire Working Group, outlined the result of its member’s survey about the level of checks undertaken, data sharing with the police and other similar issues:
• Less than 25% of respondents consider the current data sharing arrangements are satisfactory
• More than 50% of respondents agreed that changes to the Notifiable Occupations Scheme affected information sharing between police and licensing authorities
• 72% of respondents said that do not receive immediate notifications from the police when a taxi licensee (driver, operator or proprietor) is under investigation, arrested or charged
• 42% of respondents said that the Data Protection Act used as a reason for not sharing information
• A substantial 80% of respondents agreed it would useful would it be to have a single point of contact within the police for taxi licensing issues
Mr Button continued: “The IoL has raised concerns previously with the Home Office in relation to data sharing between police and licensing authorities in relation to taxis. In March 2015, we put on record with the Home Office our concern over the then imminent changes to the Notifiable Occupations Scheme and the proposed removal of Home Office Circular 006/2006 which provided guidance to police forces about the disclosure of convictions and other information in relation to people in professions or occupations which carry additional trust or responsibility (notifiable occupations). In summary, the concern at that point was that the changes would increase uncertainty and inconsistency in data sharing.”
The IoL is currently leading on a project to develop a national model convictions policy for licensing authorities to consider adopting locally. It has been working with the Local Government Association and the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers on the project and the aim is to consult on the draft document imminently. This project has been undertaken with the sole purpose of providing a potential national minimum standard endorsed by the relevant organisations with a view to raising consistency across England and Wales.
Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether proposed statutory guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing will include a requirement for all drivers to undertake disability equality training.
The draft Accessibility Action Plan is currently being consulted upon, the Department will review and consult on best practice guidance for taxi and PHV licensing authorities, which will include strengthened recommendations on supporting accessible services.
The statutory guidance issued under section 177 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 will not include a requirement for all taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers to undertake disability equality training as this is beyond the scope of the legislation which is to “protect children, and vulnerable individuals who are 18 or over, from harm.”
The public are being asked for their views on the proposals which could improve driver and passenger safety
CCTV could become mandatory in all taxis in South Cambridgeshire to deter “would-be trouble makers”.
Under council proposals professionally installed equipment would be a new condition for taxi driver licences.
South Cambridgeshire District Council says all vehicles must be fitted with an approved system no later than March 31, 2020.
The council is currently inviting views on its new licensing plans which include stricter criminal background checks and a new knowledge test for drivers.
Drivers will also face more frequent medical tests, the introduction of safeguarding training, while Hackney Carriages must be made fully wheelchair accessible.
Under the new rules drivers, proprietors and operators would need to notify the council of CCTV camera installations.
These would have to be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and comply with data protection laws and CCTV codes of practice.
The consultation documents states: “The installation of CCTV in licensed vehicles can be both a deterrent to would-be trouble makers and a source of evidence in the case of disputes between drivers and passengers, other incidents and accidents.
“If fitted correctly, it can assist the police and insurance companies with their investigations.”
Council officers insist the technology should not be used to “record conversations of the travelling public” and that the footage may only be accessed by the police or the council.
A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire police said the force could not comment on a consultation while it was ongoing.
“We wouldn’t want to add weight to either side of the argument,” she said.
In Cambridge, members of the city council’s licensing committee recently unanimously resolved to require CCTV in its licensed taxis, as long as it was locked and only accessed by the licensing authority and police.
An implementation date will be set out in a report to be brought to the committee in March 2018.
But in an October, a meeting of the committee members of the Cambs Taxi Driver Association warned that some drivers on minimum wage could not afford the cost to install CCTV.
The proposals come after Cambridge taxi drivers were attacked in a night of violence in September.
The incident took place in the city’s Market Square where a number of taxi drivers were assaulted, and damage was caused to their vehicles.
Responding to the suggested licensing changes, Paul Bradley, vice chairman of the Cambridge Hackney & Private Hire Association, said: “This is very welcome news to us in the city as the majority of private hire working in Cambridge are South Cambs licensed and as such will bring them up to the high standards set by the city.
“This is now going make travelling in Cambridge by taxi and private hire even safer for the passenger and driver.”
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has been a leading campaigner on improving safety for taxi services.
He said: “I would strongly encourage areas to raise standards. I think CCTV does improve safety and confidence. I’m pleased to see that the standards being set between the two authorities is coming closer.
“Taxis legislation is very complicated. Its evolved over the years and hasn’t kept pace with changing technology.
“Standards are being pushed up, which is what we want to see.”
Mr Zeichner recognised the need for “robust” data protection laws and emphasised passenger safety should be a priority.
The Cambridge MP has introduced a private members’ bill to Parliament that he hopes will streamline taxi licensing across the country without undermining councils’ ability to set local rules.
Mr Zeichner criticised the situation where a driver who would not qualify for a licence in Cambridge but could still operate in the city with a license secured in another area.
He said: “We’ve been seeing drivers coming from other parts of the country where the standards are low.”
Cllr Alex Riley, chairman of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s licensing committee, said: “We’ve thrown down the gauntlet to the taxi industry and passengers on this policy and really want to hear what they have to say.
“The draft we are consulting on has set a very high bar, including the use of technology to make sure both drivers and taxi users feel safe and reassured.
“Once the consultation closes we will assess what everyone has said and then the committee will meet again to finalise the policy we set.”
Paul Scully Chair, International Development Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of local authorities in regulating taxi and private hire vehicles.
Local authorities must ensure appropriate standards to support safe and quality services for passengers. However, as part of exercising this duty, any licencing decisions should support open, competitive and functioning markets.
Brighton Council press release.
Following a meeting on 31 October, Brighton & Hove City Council has extended Uber’s licence to operate a taxi service in the city for a further six months.
The decision on the length of the extension was taken to allow the council to monitor the outcome of the Transport for London Uber decision, to allow the council to consider whether any of the information arising from the case had direct implications for the operation in the city. It also allows the council more time to negotiate with Uber about a number of proposed conditions for operating in the city.
In making the decision, officers studied reports and written submissions from interested parties. While there was no evidence to suggest that public safety had been compromised, there are a number of concerns, and Uber are working with the council to address these and reassure residents and visitors about their safety.
Under national law, licensed drivers can operate anywhere in the country, so drivers licensed elsewhere are allowed to operate in the city. Many authorities have fewer conditions attached to their licensing than is the case here.
When licensing operators, Brighton & Hove City Council work with them to maintain and enhance standards of safety, which includes trying to ensure that drivers not licenced locally can be as accountable as possible. We’re working with Uber to ensure safety standards are maintained and address the challenges brought about by technological changes.
All Brighton & Hove private hire and Hackney Carriage drivers in the city operate under the same licences and the same guidelines contained in the Blue Book, whichever company they drive for. Likewise, all drivers undergo the same background checks.
Following the council’s standard procedure for renewing taxi operators’ license renewals, the decision was taken by officers under delegated authority. A decision on the process to look at the license at the end of this six month period will be taken in the new year.