A PASSENGER who attacked a private hire driver on the M8 minutes before his friend was killed running away from the scene has been jailed.
Ethan Hughes was jailed for 26 months after pleading guilty to assaulting Jan Smialek, the driver of the private hire taxi involved.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard today for the first time the events which led up to the tragic death of 28-year old Murray D’Angelo on December 6 last year.
Fiscal Depute Brian Robertson told the court that at around 6am on the Saturday morning, Mr Smialek picked up Hughes, Mr D’Angelo, and another man from outside a house in Edinburgh.
The trio had been at a function at Tynecastle Stadium earlier and then gone to a party. They had been drinking. Hughes got into the front passenger seat, while the two other men sat in the rear. Mr Smialek was asked to go to Chesser Avenue and then Livingston.
Mr Robertson said an argument then broke out over where to go first. Mr Smialek stopped the car on the hard shoulder of the M8 between the Hermiston and Gogar junctions as he was “concerned that the incident was escalating” and pressed the emergency button and asked for police to be contacted.
The Fiscal said the situation appeared to calm down and the driver contacted his control room and told them not to call the police.
“The end of the phone call was heard by the accused” said Mr Robertson. “He heard the word ‘police’ and produced a curved hunting knife, brandished it at the driver and threatened to kill him if he didn’t go to Livingston”.
The Fiscal added that there was a struggle and Mr Smialek was struck in the eye with the knife.
“While the accused was distracted, he (Smialek) jumped out of the taxi. He ran across two carriageways of the M8 in the dark” said the Fiscal. He then flagged down a lorry and the police were contacted.
Defence solicitor Andrew Aitken said Hughes had expressed remorse throughout the proceedings, not just to Mr Smialek, but to his friend, Murray D’Angelo, who was then killed crossing the road. No details of how or why Mr D’Aneglo fled the scene before being hit by two vehicles were heard in court.
“My client feels personally responsible for that and it is something that will stay with him for the rest of his life,” said Mr Aitken.
Mr Aitken said Hughes’ “astonishing behaviour last December” stemmed from his parents splitting up. “He started abusing drugs, including cocaine, and became addicted to that drug. He descended into drug misuse and offending behaviour”. He also suffered from significant paranoia, said Mr Aitken, and that along with alcohol and drugs played its part in what happened that evening.
At the party, he saw two individuals he knew and in his paranoia took a knife from the kitchen fearing he would be assaulted while waiting for the taxi. “It’s a classic example of how carrying a knife can end in total disaster” said the lawyer.
Jailing him, Sheriff Noble told Hughes the case could only be dealt with “by way of a prison sentence”.
“It must have been terrifying for the taxi driver. He might have lost his eye and his running across the M8 placed his life in considerable danger”.