May 18 2013 Latest news:
Friday, August 3, 2012
25-year-old victim speaks out about her ordeal as a warning to others
A woman raped by a rogue taxi driver on a night out has issued a stark warning to others to think twice about using an unlicensed taxi.
She also urged victims of sex crimes to come forward and report it to police in a bid to catch offenders.
Sarah (not her real name) bravely spoke out as her attacker Nathan Gifford was jailed for eight years.
The 44-year-old, of Coleshall Close, Maidstone, denied rape but was found guilty by a jury last month.
Sarah had been out drinking with her friend in Gillingham last Christmas Eve when the pair became separated.
The 25-year-old said: “I’d gone out for the night with one of my friends and we went to a pub and then we went on to Bliss (nightclub), we were there most of the night.
“I did have too much to drink. I then lost her and when I left the Bliss I went outside to phone a taxi, but for some reason I couldn’t get through.
“Then I got into what I thought was a taxi and he attacked me.”
Gifford had borrowed a taxi from a friend and was picking up unofficial fares the night.
When Sarah left the club at around 2.35am, he helped her into his taxi and raped her.
She was left abandoned in an area she didn’t know and found in a distressed state by two men who raised the alarm.
Sarah gave evidence at a trial at Maidstone Crown Court.
“It was a relief when he did get found guilty but it was horrible, really horrible, to have to go through,” she said.
“Every now and then I did obviously think, I don’t know if it can do it, but I had a quite a lot of support from friends and family and the police were also really good.
“I didn’t want to let anyone down as obviously they had done so much work finding him.
“I didn’t want to pull out because I hoped the police had enough to find him guilty, which obviously we did in the end.
“It was a relief when he got found guilty and I actually thought there is justice out there; you hear so many bad stories about people getting off, but he obviously got found guilty, so it makes you feel a little bit better.
“It’s been six months since it happened and I think it’s been hanging over all of our heads for all that time, so now at least its over he will get his sentencing and we can try and get on.”
Sarah is now warning other women to be careful when they are out drinking.
“I would just say always use a reputable taxi company that you know of or have used before,” she said.
Months on from her ordeal, Sarah understandably is still struggling to move forward.
“It’s silly things, like I would not get a taxi on my own now with whoever, and I’ve not been out since it happened it just obviously does affect every part of your life,” she said.
“Yes I will go out again, I don’t want him to ruin my life, but at the moment I don’t feel ready.”
Speaking about Gifford, she said: “It just makes me feel sick really that someone could do that to someone else and he’s that much older than me, he’s a bit sick.”
She said victims of a sex attack should always report the matter to the police to stop offenders going out and doing it again.
“That’s one of the things I thought all along, even with the trial, if I didn’t do the trial he might go out and do it to someone else.”
Her mother also spoke out about her daughter’s ordeal.
“It’s been totally distressing for the whole family.
“We got that call about 5am and had to go to hospital and see the state she was in, I don’t think any mother should see their daughter like that.
“The police were very good with her and treated her with respect which is what you want when something like that’s happened.
“If Sarah ever needed to get home from anywhere she could always call me or her dad and we would always collect them, whatever time of the morning, it’s unfortunate this morning her phone wasn’t working, she thought she was getting into a taxi.”
She too feels her daughter and the rest of the family can move on now Gifford has been jailed.
She added: “We are a close family anyway and she has a got the support of family and friends and we will try and build on that really and put it behind us.”
Detective Inspector Lee Whitehead from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “Gifford gave the impression of being a professional taxi driver and then preyed on the victim whilst she was in a vulnerable state. The victim probably felt that she was safe when she stepped into the rogue taxi driver’s vehicle but he took full advantage of the situation.
“A swift investigation using automatic number plate recognition technology and CCTV evidence led to Gifford’s arrest on the same day.
“Gifford denied the offence throughout the trial, which resulted in the victim having to suffer the ordeal of being cross examined in court. She was incredibly brave to come forward and support this prosecution. Her actions have prevented someone else having to go through what she has.”
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