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Taxi driver jailed for rape in cab

THE DRIVER of a black London cab who raped a 22-year-old Spanish student in his taxi was jailed for eight years yesterday.

As Frank Welton, 25, was led away there were shouts from the public gallery. Family and friends screamed abuse at the jury and shouted: 'None of you are English, you are all Spanish.' Welton's wife Tracey, who married him after he was charged, screamed: 'You've put an innocent man away.'

The jury of six men and six women took two and a half hours to find Welton guilty of raping the language student after she hailed his cab in Wigmore Street central London on 17 February.

Judge Henry Palmer, at Harrow Crown court, told Welton: 'You were in a position of trust. People who use London black taxi cabs are entitled to expect a safe ride and a safe journey and you abused that trust in a most dreadful way.

'This was a complete stranger who was a passenger in your taxi and you thought you were entitled to have sexual intercourse with her against her consent.'

The student's ordeal began when she hailed Welton's cab at 2.20am after leaving a party. Eight minutes into the journey Welton stopped the cab in a secluded spot and jumped into the back.

The woman told the court: 'I took the taxi and just wanted to go home. I thought it was a licensed taxi driver and everyone had suggested to always take a black cab because it's safe.

'I was terrified throughout the incident, I was too scared to do anything or fight back. At the end I thought he was going to kill me. I thought he was crazy.' The woman said she was sobbing throughout the rapes which happened as he took her to her West London home. 'I tried to open the door but I couldn't . . . I was so scared I was shaking,' she said.

Sally Bennett-Jenkins, for the prosecution, had earlier told the court that the woman had left the party hoping to see a black cab with its light on - a 'symbol of trust'. Miss Bennet-Jenkins said: 'After seven or eight minutes, she didn't know why, but he stopped. She thought something was unusual as she hadn't asked him to stop, but she thought he was going to make a telephone call. Welton jumped in the back and sat on the folding down seat in front of the terrified girl.' He then raped her. Afterwards he apologised.

'He said: 'What have I done, don't look at my face, I'm sorry I've never done this before in my life'.' The second time he stopped he was put off by a nearby dust cart moving off, but the third time he stopped she was raped again After the assaults Welton dropped her off near her home, her clothes dishevelled and her make up running down her face. She told her boyfriend of the attack. Miss Bennett-Jenkins said: 'She said she had been violated by a man in a cab. She could barely speak such was her distress.'

Welton, of Ferdinand Street, Camden, north London, who denied the charges, claimed the girl consented. He told the court that sex with passengers was a 'perk of the job'. Welton was jailed for eight years on each charge to be served concurrently.

After the hearing Det Sgt Stephen Lovelock, who headed the investigation, said women should not be scared of taking a black cab. 'It was an isolated incident and women should feel safe in black cabs.'