Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Trial underway of Cullyhanna pair accused of taxi driver kidnap and assault

The trial has begun of two Cullyhanna men accused of the kidnap and assault of a Dundalk taxi driver while he was driving them home in November 2016.

Robert Tasker (26), a former star player with Armagh Minors, and his cousin 24-year-old Antion McCooey, both of separate addresses in St. Patrick’s Park, appeared before Newry Crown Court on Monday last, accused of kidnapping, robbing, threatening to kill and assaulting taxi driver Paul Kelly on November 29th 2016.

A jury of seven men and five women heard that Tasker is alleged to have held a Stanley knife to Mr Kelly’s throat and threatened to “rape and murder” him after he picked the pair up from a Chinese restaurant in Dundalk in the early hours of the morning.

Prosecution barrister Fiona O’Kane said the taxi driver had “suffered a particularly horrible experience” at the hands of the men.

Outlining the Prosecution case, Ms O’Kane said that Mr Kelly would give evidence that upon entering the vehicle, the men paid for the fare of 30 euros upfront at the request of the taxi driver.  She alleged that Mr Tasker, who was in the back seat of the vehicle, then began to use sexually graphic language. When told by the taxi driver that he felt uncomfortable with the conversation, it is claimed that Mr Cooey’s demeanour changed “and Mr Kelly felt intimidated”.  The prosecution lawyer alleged that Tasker then brandished a Stanley knife and put it up against Mr Kelly’s throat, telling him “not to move or I’ll slash your throat”.

McCooey is then said to have produced a screwdriver and made stabbing motions with it while demanding cash.  After Mr Kelly handed over €120 in takings, it is alleged that Tasker threatened to “rape and murder him” while McCooey insisted he wanted “to stab him”, as he “begged for his life”.  When a car passed by the now-stationary taxi, the two men left.

Mr Kelly then fled to the home of the owner of the taxi firm he worked for, Dave Shannon. In a statement read to the court, Mr Shannon said Mr Kelly was “very distressed, he was crying and shaking” when he arrived at the house. The incident was then reported to the Gardai. 

Following their arrests, both defendants refused to answer questions from police and denied any involvement in the offences.

The trial continues.