Taxi driver John Mitchell was left with screws holding his jaw together after an attack in Stoke. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

‘Gutless’ attack on taxi driver

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A vicious assault has left a taxi driver with a broken jaw and unable to work, but he says he feels bad for the young men who did it, even though they haven’t been found.

John Mitchell has been left with screws holding his jaw together after the cowardly attack by two strangers last week.

John was driving a Nelson City Taxi van along Nayland Rd, Stoke, in the early hours of Sunday January 13, when he noticed two people waving out on the Whakatu Drive over-bridge.

There was a taxi in front of him which slowed down and pulled to the side, so he kept driving.

Checking his rear-view mirror, he saw the other taxi drive off so thought “oh well, I’ll go and get them then”.

He did a U-turn, pulled over, and the two young men said they wanted a ride.

“I got out of the cab and went to open the sliding door because it’s a jammy little thing, and before I even got to the door, they were calling me things like ‘you’re a fat bastard’, so I got back in the car.”

One of the young men then poked his head through the window and wouldn’t remove it, so John got back out.

“I said to them ‘look mate, if you don’t want a ride please get out because I’ve got another job to go to’.”

One of the young men, who John can only describe as having “beachy blonde hair”, then king hit John in the face, snapping his jaw in two before running off towards Stoke.

“I don’t sort of remember what happened after that. I didn’t hit the emergency button in the car for some reason, and for some reason I’ve done a U-turn and driven towards Songer St.

“I remember seeing a police car coming towards me and I knew I was in trouble, so I waved him down and pretty much collapsed at the back of the van and told them what’d happened.”

John had X-rays taken at Nelson Hospital which showed two severe breaks to his jaw.

“Nobody sort of knew how bad it was until the x-ray, then everyone sort of went white.”

An X-ray image of John Mitchell’s broken jaw.
An X-ray image of John Mitchell’s broken jaw.

John was sent to Wellington the next day on a life flight and then by ambulance to Hutt Hospital to await surgery to secure his jaw back in place.

John says that night he had bone protruding through his gum, poking him in the tongue. Surgery was successful but he still doesn’t know how many screws are holding his jaw together.

“I’m trying to stay positive about going back to work, I tell Andy that I am … but I just don’t know.”

Andy Wooley is the owner of the taxi that John was driving and describes the offenders as “gutless pricks”.

After the whole ordeal, John says he feels bad for the offenders.

“I reckon he was only 19 or 20, he’d only be a young fella, and you know one night he’s gotten drunk and done this.

Nelson City Taxis chairman Graeme Page says its “devastating” because the company has very good safety precautions in place.

“But they are based around in-car activity. This is an instance where a driver has got out to either assist or help someone which can happen anytime.”

Now the company has to think about how it can protect their drivers outside the vehicles as well. He says some drivers have already purchased cameras that film outside the vehicle as well.

A police spokesperson says enquiries into the assault are still ongoing.

John says he’s in two minds whether he wants them to be caught or not.

“On one hand I think well, I don’t want it to happen again, and then on the other hand I think something like this could ruin this young man’s life, it was hopefully a stupid mistake.

The offenders are described as being in their late teens, early twenties. One was wearing a brown jacket and one a short sleeve top with a watch on his right hand.

Anyone with information should contact the Nelson Police Station on 546 3840.