Driver killed in taxi robbery

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Yesterday morning near Pulli Village, Pärnu County taxi driver Lembit (65) was found dead having fallen victim of taxi robbery Sunday night. The suspects, young men aged 18 and 20, were held by police in Lithuania. 

On Sunday at 9 pm, police were notified of a taxi driver in Pärnu County robbed of his vehicle Mercedes-Benz. Attempts to contact the driver, Lembit, had remained futile.  

Pärnu Takso director Edgar Põldme said the taxi driver received an order from Pulli Village and told the dispatcher he was going. As the next order came in, the dispatchers tried to get contact with the driver but in vain. «In the beginning the phone was calling, but from about 10 pm it was busy,» he described. Immediately, the dispatchers notified the police.

«This is the second time we have a tragic event like this at Pärnu Takso,» said Mr Põldme. The previous incident was in Sindi last May as a taxi driver got knifed.

Mr Põldme said the company has agreed a code word for emergency situations. Thus, the taxi driver knifed in Sindi was able to notify of the danger by phone. «The drivers have lots of options to speak the word into radio,» he said. Indeed, the police found the secret radio station on the car seat, such as drivers keep in their coat pocket in case of emergency. Alas, Lembit never sent the code word.

Standing in front of Bristol Hotel at Rüütli St at 3 pm yesterday, Pärnu Takso drivers were disheartened.

«Too bad,» said a colleague, a close friend of the man killed. «Makes one nervous! Still feeling bad, like trembling inside!» He said Lembit had promised to go to his place at ten on Sunday and take a guest home. As after several phone calls Lembit would not answer, he smelled trouble: «Taxi drivers do not disappear like that. We always tell one another before we go someplace.»

Promptly, he notified Pärnu Takso dispatcher.

A cabby who worked on Sunday recalled he talked to Lembit in front of the hotel for ten minutes before the colleague picked up two young men at 8:30 pm and drove off. He suspected nothing evil: «It was a quiet night.»

Despite the tragic events, the Pärnu Takso drivers are not thinking about quitting. «One has to do something,» said the friend of Lembit while admitting he at times gets fed up.

The colleagues said Lembit was an experienced taxi driver, behind the wheel ever since the Soviet times.

Western prefecture press representative Heiko Leesment said the patrol found the body during searches. «The destination being known, the area was clear cut,» he explained. Initial data says the taxi driver was killed with a sharp object.

The press representative added the killers had thrown out of the vehicle the taxi driver’s radio transmitter, tablet computer and the roof sign. These were found at some distance.

Having established that the vehicle left Estonia at about 10 pm via Ikla, colleagues were informed in Latvia and also Lithuania. With help by Lithuanian police, the vehicle was held near Panevėžys with men aged 18 and 20 in it who do not permanently dwell in Estonia.

The Western prosecutor’s office says the suspects have Estonian citizenships but to their knowledge lived in the UK. The men have no criminal record in Estonia. «The motive of their deed is being clarified, and it is not exactly known when we will manage to bring them to Estonia,» press representative of prosecutor’s office told BNS.

Prosecutor Gardi Anderson said they are in active international cooperation to get the suspects and the vehicle back to Estonia as soon as possible.

E-Takso director Endel Hiis said such tragic events come as a shock to all taxi companies and their drivers. After the incident in Sindi, he reviewed the safety issues with his men. «We also have code words and positioning. We always see where the car is at,» he said. Such an application was being planned at Pärnu Takso for next week.

Items for self defence as pepper gas have been also advised by the taxi company head. «Now we will need to consider what we can do against such incidents,» he said, and admitted. «Not much more to be done, tell the truth.»

The police is asking all who on January 31st at 8:34 to 10 pm, in Pärnu County, saw a grey estate  Mercedes-Benz E220 with Pärnu Takso logos to contact the police at +372 513 1599 or 112.