Taxi stolen by joyrider with passenger still in the back

Police are hunting for a man who stole an unattended taxi and crashed it - while a passenger was still on board.

The man leapt into the driver's seat of a black Mercedes taxi and sped off along the road into oncoming traffic, narrowly missing pedestrians and mounting kerbs.

He caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage to the cab, which was all witnessed by the fee-paying passenger in the back.

Taxi driver Corneliu Croiala told Plymouth Live he was agreeing a destination with a pair of passengers when one got out to go nearby ATM.

He then became aware of a group of "about 10 to 20 kids" on the pavement who were trying to get into the already taken taxi.

He said: "They were in and out, even climbing over the passenger, pulling on the automatic door, closing and opening it. It's an electric door and it doesn't slide manually so them forcing it can cause it damage.

"I had to get out and remove them, told them to walk away and to mind their own business."

Taxi on Plymouth street
Taxi on Plymouth street

As he was closing the rear door one of the revellers got into the driver's seat. Cornelieu tried to stop him but the automatic door lock had engaged.

Corneliu added: "I was struggling to open it and he drove off.

"I flagged down the first taxi coming towards me, which was one of my black cab colleagues and we rang police, then I jumped in and we headed towards Millbay to see where he went."

The footage shows the suspect's friends, laughing and filming as it raced off carrying out a series of dangerous manoeuvres, including overtakes, veering onto the other side of the road, performing a U-turn, mounting the pavement and swerving back and forth over a hashed junction.

Corneliu added: "On the original [footage] you can hear [the passenger] screaming, crying, begging the driver to stop all along the way.

"It was a miracle he didn't pass out, you can hear how frightening it was. It was really really scary. It was very lucky this person [the suspect] didn't kill anyone. There's two near head-on crashes - one with a police van and one with another vehicle. It's just luck he didn't crash head-on."

Corneliu said he has been left with an estimated repair bill of around £5,000 with his cab suffering a damage to the rear right door, rear right wing, front wheel and automatic sliding door mechanism.

If you recognise anyone from the images please contact police on 101 or email or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 quoting crime reference number CR/039673/19.