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BOGUS TAXI TRIP ENDS IN DEATH

A man who allegedly posed as a taxi driver to entice women into his car, faces two charges of kidnapping, one of manslaughter and another of indecent assault.

Ioannis Revenikiotis, originally from Halkidiki, Greece, denies the manslaughter and kidnapping of Stephanie Hammill in Wakefield in November 2003 and the kidnapping and indecent assault of an unnamed woman in February 2003. Leeds Crown Court heard that Miss Hammill, aged twenty and a travel agent, had died after falling or jumping from the back seat of Revenikiotis’ car. She was then hit by a genuine taxi that was travelling in the opposite direction. Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, told the court that Miss Hammill was walking home ahead of her boyfriend, James Garland, in the early hours of November 29, 2003. Revenikiotis pulled up alongside Stephanie in his black Mercedes and, believing it was a genuine taxi, she got in. He then sped away before Mr Garland could join her, leaving him stranded. The jury, of six men and six women, was told that Miss Hammill was left ‘terrified’ and with her leg trailing from the vehicle as Revenikiotis drove off.

The prosecutor alleged that Revenikiotis drove towards Batley, going past her home. "During the course of that journey he terrified her. He drove past her home without stopping and began driving the vehicle into the open countryside. "As he did so, Stephanie Hammill, the prosecution say, in fear that she had been abducted and was about to be sexually assaulted, either jumped or fell from the rear off-side passenger door of the moving vehicle." Mr Smith QC said Miss Hammill would have been fearful as she was driven away. He told the jury: "She would understandably have been fearful of being taken somewhere with no lights, no houses and no help." Miss Hammill was found dead in the middle of Batley Road minutes later.

She had been run over by a real taxi coming the other way and suffered severe injuries. "She was hit by another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction, which passed over her body. She received serious injuries from which she died at the scene," said Mr Smith. "The prosecution say his actions were so terrifying they caused her to alight from his car and she was unlawfully killed because of his actions. Revenikiotis' motive, the prosecution say, was clearly sexual." Nine months prior to the death of Miss Hammill, Revenikiotis allegedly carried out a sex attack on a 24-year-old pregnant women he had picked up from outside Dewsbury bus station late at night. The woman told the court that she thought she was getting into a taxi. She began to panic when the driver passed her house and became ‘aggressive’. “I was shaking. I was scared for my baby,” she said. “I thought about getting out, we were driving quite slow. But I was pregnant — I’m not going to get very far.” Revenikiotis started crying and slumped to the floor during the woman’s evidence. On the direction of the judge, he was removed from the dock.

The woman described being indecently assaulted after the car pulled up on a slip road onto the M62 motorway. “I was just so scared,” she said, breaking down in tears. “He kept grabbing my hand and touching my leg.” Revenikiotis told police that he thought the woman was a prostitute. The victim was taken home and the police photographed Revenikiotis. However, no formal complaint was ever made and so the matter was not taken any further until the death of Miss Hammill was reported. The prosecutor told the jury that 28-year-old Revenikiotis, an electrical engineer at TQ Environmental in Wakefield, had a ‘propensity for indecently touching’ women and had allegedly made indecent approaches to several women in the past. These included a student at the University of Huddersfield, where Revenikiotis obtained a degree in electronics and electrical engineering. The court was told he ‘forced himself’ upon her and kissed her on the face. It was also alleged that he grabbed a woman who worked at a Huddersfield restaurant and tried to kiss her. Joan Hofton, a former colleague of Revenikiotis at TQ Environmental, told the court he had once put his arm around her and touched her breast.

She said she felt ‘shock, horror’ and had hit him. A woman who ran a Huddersfield restaurant alleged that Revenikiotis had pestered her for a drink and had chased her in a car. All four women had dealt with the incidents privately and the police were never involved. Mr Smith told the jury that Revenikiotis had flown to South Korea on a pre-arranged business trip only hours after Stephanie died, returning on December 19. The following day, he borrowed 200 from a work colleague and another 200 from James Boucher, a director at TQ Environmental. Revenikiotis allegedly said that he needed to go to Greece to be with his family since his mother had a bad heart. However, Mr Smith contended that Revenikiotis' parents were visiting from Greece at that time and there was no evidence of any illness. Revenikiotis left for Greece the same evening, driving the Mercedes and with his parents aboard. Mr Boucher subsequently became aware of the search for a car after Stephanie's death and, with Revenikiotis nowhere to be found, told police about him. The prosecution maintained that Revenikiotis, knowing the car could incriminate him, decided to return with it to his native Greece.

The jury was told he had no other reason to flee the country in such a hurry. He had bought a house and there ‘was evidence of a settled lifestyle in the UK.’ Additionally, when police searched his house in School Crescent, Dewsbury, they found personal items and even fresh milk in the fridge. Inquiries were subsequently made in Greece and the car was found on November 23, 2004 at a scrap yard. The vehicle had been damaged in an accident and was brought back to the UK in a sealed container. Stephanie's fingerprint was found on the inside of the rear passenger door window. This, suggested Mr Smith, was conclusive evidence that Stephanie had been in the car. The fingerprint was on the side from which it was claimed she jumped or fell. Seat fibres in the Mercedes were also found to be similar to some on Stephanie's clothing. When interviewed by Greek police, Revenikiotis maintained he knew ‘absolutely nothing’ about the incident involving her.

One week into the hearing and the case took a dramatic twist when Ioannis Revenikiotis failed to appear in the dock of court 12 when his trial resumed. The judge, Mr Justice Butterfield, told the jury: "As you can see there is no defendant in the dock. This is because he is ill. It is nobody's fault, that's what happened. Go home and be ready to start again tomorrow." The judge has subsequently ruled that Revenikiotis is not fit to stand trial. Mr Justice Butterfield told the jury: “I have heard a substantial amount of evidence from a number of psychiatrists and they are all agreed that the defendant is now mentally disordered. I have decided that he is not capable of properly instructing his solicitor and he is certainly not capable of himself giving evidence.” But this is not the end of the matter, with the judge stressing the case would continue. He ordered the jury to take a new oath to decide whether Revenikiotis committed the acts with which he was previously charged. He said: “If you are satisfied that he did those acts then the court has certain restrictive powers to deal with the defendant and, if you are not satisfied, then he is entitled to be acquitted.” The case continues.

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