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London cabbie James Wilkinson, from Faversham, on trial accused of holding journalist prisoner in taxi

By KentOnline reporter

A Kent cabbie has gone on trial accused of holding a Channel 4 news correspondent prisoner in his taxi in a row over the car's heating.

The alleged incident happened in London on the day of the Westminster terrorist attack, a court heard.

Helia Ebrahimi, 39, who works as the channel's business correspondent, was trapped in the back of the London taxi driven by cabbie James Wilkinson, a jury was told.

The Channel 4 correspondent was allegedly held prisoner in the black cab. Stock image.

During the journey on the evening of March 22 this year, the journalist, of British Iranian decent, asked for the heater to be turned on - but it wasn't working, the court heard.

Wilkinson, 57, from Faversham, claimed it was working, but the heater was still blowing cold air and Ms Ebrahimi said she was not prepared to pay the fare for the "freezing" journey.

The cabbie became angry and began to take her back to where he picked her up and didn't let frightened Ms Ebrahimi out the cab - despite her pleas for him to stop, the court heard.

Wilkinson is on trial at Blackfriars Crown Court charged with false imprisonment of the journalist and one count of dangerous driving.

The court heard that during the journey he made remarks to Ms Ebrahimi, including one regarding police being busy on the day because of "the likes of you".

It is also claimed he said "this city used to have class" and "this country used to have good people" and called her a thief.

Westminster in the aftermath of the terror attack. Picture: Ollie Cole

The journey at 8.20pm came hours after Khalid Masood drove his car across Westminster Bridge into pedestrians, killing four people, before stabbing House of Parliament police officer Keith Palmer to death.

Ms Ebrahimi managed to film part of her journey before she was eventually dropped off near the ITN offices.

As she tried to get a shot of the taxi driver's badge, the vehicle moved forward and then reversed, knocking her to the ground and leaving her with bruises, a trapped sciatic nerve and damage to her £600 trousers, the court heard.

Giving evidence, Ms Ebrahimi said she made repeated requests for the heating to be turned up.

She told the jury: "I said it couldn't have been turned on as there was a lot of air being blown out, and I was feeling cold.

"He became frustrated and said to me 'if you are going to be like that you can get out'.

The cabbie is accused of failing to let the woman out of his vehicle. Stock image.

"I felt that was really offensive. I was quite upset. I didn't quite understand why he was so angry.

"I said if he was trying to kick me out here I'm not going to pay the fare.

"At that point he told me 'I'm not going to let you out then.'"

He told Ms Ebrahimi he was going to take her to a police station, which she said was fine, as she said: "I felt I hadn't done anything wrong".

She added: "Then he said 'don't you think the police will be busy on a day like this, dealing with the likes of you?'"

"I didn't understand it, the 'day like this', it was the Westminster terrorist attack and I couldn't quite see why the police were dealing with the likes of me. I didn't see what the connection was."

"I couldn't understand the level of anger directed at me. I couldn't understand where we were going, what his motivation was and why he wouldn't let me out the taxi" - Helia Ebrahimi

She added: "I thought this had escalated to something that I couldn't comprehend."

Ms Ebrahimi said she asked to be let out of the cab, and said: "He started saying 'this country used to have good people' and 'this city used to have class'.

"It seemed like a personal attack and he had an axe to grind and I couldn't really understand what was his motivation."

She said she felt panicked, and added: "I couldn't understand the level of anger directed at me.

"I couldn't understand where we were going, what his motivation was and why he wouldn't let me out the taxi."

She said: "I pleaded with him, saying that I felt unsafe and said please let me out the taxi because I was feeling very unsafe.

"I felt quite scared. I was pleading to be let out of the cab."

The jury was also played the video filmed by Ms Ebrahimi from the back of the cab during the last part of the journey.

Police in the aftermath of Khalid Masood's assault on Westminster. Credit: SWNS.com

She is heard repeatedly saying "Can you let me out of your taxi please?" And "I feel very much under threat" and "I don't feel safe".

She also complains that Wilkinson was driving as speed, to which he said: "No, I'm not."

In the video she said: "I really don't feel safe" to which the defendant is heard saying "neither do I, from people like you, a thief."

Ms Ebrahimi said: "Earlier you likened me to a terrorist." To which Wilkinson said: "No I never. Get out my cab!"

The cab eventually stopped on Rodger Street, near Ms Ebrahimi's work and she got out the cab and continued to film to get the driver details from the inside.

But as she did so the cab moved forward and then backward, hitting her with the door knocking her to the ground.

Wilkinson denies the two charges.

The trial continues.

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