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Indian Sikh cab drivers beaten up, robbed in Melbourne

Melbourne, Jun 18:  Five cabs run by Indians in Melbourne were attacked by thugs last night in Melbourne causing a scare among the Indian community here. Sunny Singh, owner of two taxis ambushed by masked

PTI PTI Updated on: June 18, 2012 22:15 IST
indian sikh cab drivers beaten up robbed in melbourne
indian sikh cab drivers beaten up robbed in melbourne

Melbourne, Jun 18:  Five cabs run by Indians in Melbourne were attacked by thugs last night in Melbourne causing a scare among the Indian community here.

Sunny Singh, owner of two taxis ambushed by masked thugs said, his drivers are becoming too scared to work at night.

Sunny Singh said assaults on drivers were increasing and nobody was concerned enough to do anything about it.

"We report incidents regularly but nobody is listening to us," he alleged, reports The Age newspaper.

Five cabs were targeted last night in what appears a co-ordinated spate of robberies.

Singh said one of his drivers had suffered a deep gash to the head when he was belted over the head with a baseball bat in Sunshine.

He said four men in one car and three in another had tailed the taxi and then boxed it in before assaulting the driver and snatching his takings and mobile phone.

"The driver had to go to hospital to get stitches in his head, they surrounded him and hit him with a baseball bat or something. Then they smashed all the windows and the mirrors," he said.

Another of his cab drivers was also targeted in Sunshine with the robbers grabbing cash and a mobile phone. He was badly shaken but not injured.

"We have to put a stop to this, nobody wants to work the night shift anymore, they are just too scared to drive," he said.

Singh said the drivers would have only been carrying between $180 and $200.

Daniel Samuel, a spokesman for the Victorian Taxi Association, said there were up to 40 incidents a month across Melbourne that required police action.

He said there was a real concern that the latest attacks seemed to have been planned.

"It would appear that these are organised attacks and robberies," Mr Samuel said.

He warned cab drivers to be alert when operating in the western suburbs, but said violence against cabbies could happen anywhere and was worried that it was becoming socially accepted that drivers could be bashed.

"It must be bloody terrifying for the drivers," he said.

The first incident took place on Anderson Street, Sunshine about midnight.

Driver Harpreet Gill, 30 from Sunshine, said he handed over his mobile phone and $150 in cash and was then punched in the face after being pulled over by a vehicle. He has cuts to his nose and lips.

"I was bleeding from my nose and my face. I just dropped off a passenger in Sunshine West.

"I saw a car approaching from behind at some speed. I thought they were trying to overtake me so I pulled over.

"It was terrifying. I was too scared. I don't know how to describe it."

Gill told police he was overtaken by another vehicle and forced to stop. Then a second vehicle pulled up next to the taxi, blocking it in, he said.

He said several men wearing balaclavas got out of the two vehicles and began smashing the sides and windows of the taxi before demanding he hand over his wallet and takings.

Over the next 90 minutes, four similar robberies took place in Sunshine and surrounding suburbs: a taxi driver robbed on Somerville Road, Brooklyn about 12.10am near Market Road; at 1am another taxi driver stopped, beaten and robbed on Fitzgerald Road, Laverton North near Cherry Lane; a fourth at the corner of Duke Street and Berkshire Road in Sunshine at 1.15am.

A fifth driver was robbed on Bradman Street near McIntyre Road in Sunshine North at 1.30am.

In the Laverton North attack, a 46-year-old taxi driver from Hoppers Crossing had his arm broken.

The offenders smashed his cab with bats, then one man assaulted the driver before pulling him out of the vehicle and taking his money.

Another driver, a 27-year-old from Delahey, managed to drive away after he was boxed in by the two cars in Bradman Street in Sunshine North.

The driver sought sought assistance from residents on the street but when he returned to his vehicle he was again attacked by the group, sustaining head injuries.

The driver had his phone and other belongings taken and later went to hospital.

A third driver managed to flee the attackers when his taxi was rear-ended by one of the cars on Duke Street in Sunshine.

The taxi driver, who had stopped at a red light, drove off when he saw a balaclava-clad man get out of the car and approach his taxi with a baseball bat.

The two vehicles pursued the taxi, but the driver, a 28-year-old man from St Albans, managed to escape and drive to Sunshine Police Station.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said she did not believe any of the taxis were carrying passengers at the time of the attacks.

Police are investigating whether the targeted taxis were responding to call-outs.

Police believe there were at least seven offenders, aged from 18 to early 20s.

One of the stolen vehicles used in the attacks, a red Subaru, had been recovered, police told a media conference this morning.

Superintendent Rick Nugent said police had formed a taskforce in response to the attacks.

"We will do everything we can to bring these people to justice," he said.

Police would examine CCTV footage and they were forensically examining the taxis and step up patrols of the area.

"We will be leaving no stone unturned," he said.

Police have appealled for witnesses to help them locate two stolen cars they believe were used to carry out the robberies. The registation of the red Subaru is PB 269. The second vehicle is a ZX Nissan sedan, registration XOB 029.

Melbourne police has appealed to people to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or  log in to  www.crimestoppers.com.au.

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