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SIAN O'CALLAGHAN: Swindon taxi drivers say you can still be safe
10:11am Friday 25th March 2011 in News
THE news that a taxi driver was last night being questioned by police in connection with Sian’s disappearance has prompted cabbies to speak out in a bid to reassure the public.
Chris Halliwell, 47, was yesterday arrested on suspicion of kidnap and two counts of murder.
He was employed by Swindon private hire firm Five Star.
The company issued the following statement: “Five Star Private Hire are fully supporting the police investigation and will do all they can to assist the police.
“We would like to reassure all of our customers that our business is continuing as normal.
“Our thoughts are with Sian’s family and friends.”
Meanwhile, other taxi drivers in the town have spoken of their shock that two bodies have been found by police, one of which is thought to be that of 22-year-old Sian.
Tony White is from the 150-strong Swindon Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents Hackney cab drivers, which can legally pick up off the street without bookings.
And with the weekend clubbing rush due to begin tonight, the 35-year-old, who has two young daughters himself, said the whole episode was “scary and horrid”.
He said: “Use a proper, licensed taxi. Ensure it’s got valid, licensed plates on the back.
“When you get in a taxi, ask to see his badge. Without that, do not get into the vehicle.”
He said getting in a taxi “does involve a huge amount of trust. But also a lot of education and understanding”.
While Hackney cabs, which have white plates, can pick up from the street, private hire taxis, with yellow plates, must only pick up customers who have booked in advance by phone.
Mal Bains, director of Radio Taxis in Percy Street, which has up to 25 cars on the street at any given time, said: “Every taxi driver is CRB checked. They have to have a CRB, driving licence and knowledge test.
“Ask them what name they are there for. Do not give them your name.
“If it has got your name, you know it’s your cab.
“To stop flying (unlicensed cabs), you need to educate the general public. Please use private hire. They do a valid service. But make sure you’ve made a booking. Make sure you see their sign clearly presented on the side of the door.”
Blanche Hedges, company secretary of Abbey Taxis in Morris Street, said: “Make sure there’s a plate on the back and stickers in the windows. If you’re getting picked up in a taxi, you think you’re getting picked up safely.”