A TAXI driver wrestled with a knife-wielding yob in his cab after he refused to pay – just hours after the same thug terrified a shop worker with a knife.
Anthony Whitelock got into the taxi in Musgrave Walk, in Hartlepool, in the early hours - but tried to get out without paying for the fare causing the plucky cabbie to lock the doors.
As 28-year-old Whitelock tried to scramble through the seats to escape he pulled out a “substantial knife”, which the terrified driver made a grab for.
During the struggle, the driver’s knuckle was cut with the sharp blade.
The knife was the same weapon which Whitelock had used to try to rob a late-night town Tesco store just hours earlier.
Teesside Crown Court was told that prolific offender Whitelock, of The Front, in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, had brandished the blade at a store worker before demanding cash from the till.
But the brave member of staff pushed him away and he fled.
The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, decided that the crimes were so serious that he sentenced Whitelock to five years in jail.
The judge said: “On this particular night you had taken drugs.
“You went into Tesco in pursuit of money in order to get money for drugs at 10pm at night.
“Tesco may be a large organisation but it provides a service to the local community by staying open at night and therefore those premises are vulnerable to an extent.
“You went in with a knife and having been there for half an hour under the gaze of two members of staff you realised you couldn’t get away with shop lifting so you turned to an attempt of robbery.
“There were no hallmarks of professionalism about it, and you were almost bound to be recognised because unbeknown to you, your photograph was hanging on the door of the manager’s office.
“Then having failed to get anything from Tesco, you hired the services of the taxi.”
He added: “You got into that taxi with a knife and I have no doubt it was in determination of never paying for that taxi ride.
“In the course of the struggle, he (the driver) was injured.
“This offence was against a vulnerable individual who was providing a service to the community and it was committed during the early hours of the morning.”
Whitelock pleaded guilty to wounding and possession of the knife on March 8. He was convicted of attempted robbery and a second count of possession of a knife at an earlier trial.
Mitigating, Martin Scarborough said his client was having a hard time personally at the time of the crimes as his brother, who suffered with Huntington’s disease, was in a coma at the time.
He said: “On the night of the offence he was under the influence of drink or drugs or even both.
“His older brother Michael was diagnosed some time ago with Huntington’s Disease, and my client intends to have the test as it is not known whether he has the gene or not.
“Around this time, his brother was actually in a coma which was very difficult for this young man.”
Whitelock’s offence against the cabbie driver sparked Hartlepool Borough Council to recommend the use of CCTV in taxis.
The driver, who is in his 40s, was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, after the incident and needed stitches to his wounds.
Whitelock has 55 convictions for 106 offences on his record.
In July 2011 he received a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years with supervision and a course to help him with an alcohol problem after an attempted burglary in Elwick Road.#
In January 2009, Whitelock admitted having an offensive weapon in public, a five-inch knife in Duke Street, and he was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work and £60 costs.