When Lily caught a taxi home after a night out, she thought she would be safe. She never expected that the road would lead her to a terrifying attack…
By Helen O’Brien Google
Grabbing my friend Jamielee by the hand, I lead her to the bar. ‘Let’s have another drink,’ I said.
‘Definitely!’ she shouted over the live music. ‘Let’s make the most of this night together.’
Jamielee, also 21, and I hadn’t seen each other for ages.
We were old friends and while she had been studying at university, I had been busy working – so we’d decided to celebrate our reunion down the pub.
A band was playing eighties covers and lots of our friends were out. We were having the time of our lives dancing and drinking the night away.
I don’t want this night to end, I thought to myself.
‘I’ve missed you so much,’ I told her as I hugged her. ‘Let’s carry on the party!’
When the pub closed its doors at 11.30pm she agreed, and we caught a taxi over to the the next town so we could continue our moves at the nearest nightclub.
However by the time we arrived, we were both flagging and there didn’t seem like much point paying our entry fee.
We both decided it would be for the best if we caught a taxi back to our village and called it a night.
We flagged down a dark coloured taxi and to our relief it pulled over. We both wearily slid into the back seat.
Jamielee was to be dropped off first, followed by me.
‘Will you please make sure she gets home safe?’ Jamielee said, giving the driver her number. ‘Call me as soon as she’s home safe.’
‘That’s fine,’ came the taxi driver’s reply.
I was slightly woozy on the journey home but remember when the taxi stopped on her street.
I gave her another huge cuddle.
‘Make sure you give me a ring,’ she said.
‘Don’t worry about me,’ I replied. ‘Goodnight,’ I added, waving.
I yawned and looked out of the window as we sped off into the night.
I couldn’t wait to climb into my bed.
However I must have nodded off because when I felt the taxi slowing, I thought that I was outside my house.
It took me a few moments to realise that we were parked by a wooded area I didn’t recognise. I don’t live here…
That’s when I heard the chilling sound of the taxi driver telling Jamielee over his mobile that I had been dropped safely home.
The hairs on my neck stood on end as I wondered what his sinister plans were for me.
Please don’t hurt me, I repeated over and over in my head.
In a panic, I started to search around the taxi for my mobile but to my horror I couldn’t locate it. That’s when I knew that I was in serious trouble.
I’d be lying if it didn’t cross my mind that he might kill me. Why else would he take me somewhere so remote?
But I tried to push that thought to one side and focus on my survival.
He walked around the car to the back door and opened it.
He then reached in and started to tug down my trousers.
‘No!’ I cried, pushing him away.
But he was insistent and I didn’t want to anger him by putting up too much of a fight.
I froze as he began performing oral sex on me. I was gripped with fear and tried my best to blank out the awful act.
It’ll all be over soon, I told myself.
I can’t remember how long the ordeal lasted but it must have finished between 10 and 15 minutes later.
I pulled up my pants and tearily asked him to take me home.
‘It’ll cost you £50,’ he told me as if nothing had happened.
I’d have given him any amount of money just to be returned home in one piece.
‘That’s fine.’ I sobbed. ‘I have more cash in the house.’
To my relief, he started up the engine and headed off in the right direction home.
Once we had approached my driveway, I opened the car door and fled the taxi. I was running for my life.
I darted up the path and began furiously banging on my front door, waking my dad Tom, 54, in the process.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, noticing the state I was in. I was so hysterical he couldn’t make any sense out of what I was saying.
‘I lost my phone,’ was all I could mutter in reply.
How could I tell my dad what had just happened to his daughter?
Unable to understand my ramblings, my dad initially thought I was drunk and upset over misplacing my mobile.
‘Call the police,’ he told me. ‘The taxi driver will have it.’
But I couldn’t bring myself to divulge the truth.
He tried to calm me down until my sister Elizabeth, 18, appeared and he handed over the reins to her.
Sensing that there was something I wasn’t telling him, he disappeared back to bed.
‘Tell me what happened,’ she said, wrapping her arms around me. ‘I can tell there’s something really wrong.’
But the tears kept coming. I couldn’t stop picturing the taxi driver opening the back door and reaching in.
After lots of comforting words from my sister, I finally found the courage to speak up.
‘The taxi driver touched me,’ I revealed.
She looked shocked. ‘Then you have to call the police straight away,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry – we’re all here for you.’
I dialled 999 and between loud sobs recounted to an operator what had happened.
They sent round a police car and I was taken to the station for an interview and swab tests.
My mum Elaine, 52, and my sister followed in the family car.
At the station, gripped with fear, I almost changed my mind about spilling the details.
But the thought of another poor, unwitting girl getting into his taxi spurred me on.
We have to get this creep off the road, I told myself.
A week later, the police called to say that they had arrested the taxi driver Mohammed Iqbal, 34 at the time.
They traced him using CCTV footage and my phone was recovered from the vehicle.
However they had some other shocking news for me too… I wasn’t his only victim.
‘He has been accused of kidnapping and assaulting another girl too,’ said the officer on the line.
She’d flagged down Iqbal, after becoming separated from her boyfriend while on a night out in March, 2009.
He’d driven her around dark country lanes for two hours before grabbing her thigh and forcing his tongue into her mouth. Disgusting.
I was astonished. At least for now he couldn’t prey on young, vulnerable woman at night.
But Iqbal, a father of three, pleaded not guilty and we were forced to go to court to give evidence against him.
Listening to that late night phone call to the police in the courtroom sent shivers up my spine.
Thankfully however, when my tests came back positive, he changed his plea to guilty and was convicted of two counts of sexual assault and one of kidnap.
Sentencing him, the judge said, ‘You took advantage of the state of both of these women.
‘You were highly thought of in the community but you have destroyed the trust they had in you.’
In October, 2012 the sick sex attacker was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.
The attack has left me very wary and it’s taken a long time to come to terms with what happened.
But I won’t let Iqbal’s actions destroy my life. I’m determined to move on from this.
Out of all the taxis to get into, I can’t believe I was unlucky enough to pick that one.
Now I never get in a taxi that I haven’t pre-booked and I’d never catch a cab at night alone. I’d urge other girls to do the same – I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through.
We were really proud to help Lily to share her sex attack story with the press, to raise awareness of female safety issues. We also set her up with an opportunity to speak to the Sun newspaper. If you’ve got a similar story, you might have a lot of questions before deciding to speak to the media. Have a look at our selling a story FAQ and then, if you’re ready to confidentially discuss the next step, get in contact.