A soldier who carried out a vicious and unprovoked attack on a taxi driver has been jailed for nine years and nine months.
Steffan Rhys Wilson, aged 26, was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court today having pleaded guilty to section 18 wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The victim, a 43-year-old taxi driver from Northallerton, suffered a critical brain injury and was in a coma for two months at James Cook University Hospital. He has been left with debilitating health issues which have greatly impacted on his own and his family’s lives.
Since discharged for gross misconduct from his position as a Corporal with the Royal Engineers, Wilson had been set to face a trial for attempted murder.
However, his guilty plea to the lesser offence was accepted by the court on Monday.
He also pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting an emergency worker which involved the police officers who came to assist the taxi driver. The officers said they feared for their lives.
The incident occurred by the side of the A6055 at Little Holtby during the early hours of Sunday 1 December 2019.
Wilson got in the taxi at around 3am from outside Club Amadeus in Northallerton.
When the taxi arrived at Little Holtby, Wilson carried out an unprovoked attack on the driver. The police officers arrived while the attack was ongoing.
Wilson immediately stopped and began attacking the officers, a male Sergeant and female PC. The PC was punched and the Sergeant was strangled by Wilson.
Fearing for their safety, the officers activated a call for emergency assistance which resulted in Wilson being detained.
As he was being put in the back of the police van, Wilson reportedly said the following to the Sergeant: “You took your time. I was going to kill him (the taxi driver) and I was going to kill you.”
He was charged that same day with attempted murder and the two assaults on emergency workers.
He has been remanded in custody since the incident. A scheduled trial in May had to be postponed due to COVID-19.
Detective Inspector Matt Wilkinson, of Northallerton CID, said: “In this case there are three victims – the taxi driver and the two police officers. None of whom were known to Wilson.
“The taxi driver merely collected Wilson from outside a local nightclub, and the police officers were responding to the driver’s call for help.
“During the time Wilson was being questioned at the police station, he has not given any credible explanation for his terrible actions, other than to say he was really drunk and that he didn’t mean any harm.
“He did state that he thought he was on a military exercise, but extensive police enquiries were conducted around Wilson’s military career and there was nothing to suggest that he had or was suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) at the time of the incident.
“All the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation indicates that it was a completely unprovoked attack. To this day, Wilson’s motive remains unknown.”
The victim was discharged from hospital at the beginning of March. He remains under medical care but as an outpatient. He has ongoing issues with his vision, co–ordination and mood changes, and now carries a Brain Injury identity card.
DI Wilkinson said: “His wife has been heavily reliant on the Malayali community and their family – many of whom do not live locally – to assist with caring for him and to help with their children.
“However, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, this has left his wife having to provide the care alone. The family are struggling financially and their children have also needed additional support at school as a result of this attack.
“In view of this despairing situation, North Yorkshire Police is trying to facilitate some extra support through our partner agencies.”
Addressing the assaults on the Sergeant and PC, DI Wilkinson, said: “Taking into account the violent actions against the taxi driver, the ferocious attack on them and the comment made by Wilson immediately after he was arrested that he was going to kill them along with the taxi driver, both officers said they feared for their lives.
“Although the officers sustained slight injuries, this incident has had a lasting effect on them. It left them very shaken and upset for a number of weeks.
“Overall, this has been a very tragic and sad case for all concerned. Aggravated further as it was the taxi driver’s birthday on the day of the attack, and for the defendant who, prior to this case, was regarded as a good soldier who played rugby for the Army.”