A CABBIE who murdered a private hire driver by running him over in his taxi was locked in an insurance dispute with the victim over a minor bump in the New Town.
Stephen Nolan was found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday of using his black cab as a weapon to kill Ebrahim Aryaie Nekoo, 41.
The 48-year-old was convicted of driving over his victim in Saughton Park on March 24 last year.
Taxi drivers in the Capital have said that Nolan and Mr Aryaie Nekoo went to Saughton Park for a “square go” following the insurance row, an allegation Nolan’s defence QC Donald Findlay alluded to in court.
CCTV footage showed the private hire driver and Nolan fuelling at a supermarket petrol station on Westfield Road before heading, in convoy, in the direction of Saughton Park.
Mr Aryaie Nekoo’s widow, Mobina Jafari, 32, was in court for the verdict. Afterwards a friend of Mrs Jafari said: “Mobina is very happy with what has happened. She is pleased that it is over.
“She has been in a very emotional state of mind during the trial. She was very emotional after giving evidence herself.”
Mrs Jafari, who returned to Iran following the murder of her husband, was still too upset to comment yesterday as she prepared to fly home.
The minor accident which led to the insurance dispute took place in September 2011 in Howe Street.
A friend of Nolan, who asked not to be named, said: “I’ve known Stevie for a lot of years and he was a good guy. I wouldn’t say he would back away from a one to one, but that’s the same as a lot of taxi drivers. There are a number of drivers who fly off the handle over things but I wouldn’t have put Stevie at the top of that list.
“Stevie was a former private hire driver himself, starting about 18 years ago. He got his brief for black cabs about ten years back.
“Stevie was mostly a night-shift driver. He would see more of what happens at night and the bad feeling which exists between black cabs and private hire.
“The story everyone hears is that the two men went to the park for a ‘square go’ and this was what happened. I don’t know what state of mind Stevie was in at the time.”
A taxi driver, who is another friend of Nolan’s, said: “Stevie had a bump with the other guy in the city centre. I was told he was chasing him for money for months and they met that night at the petrol station. I was told they went for a ‘square go’ and it all went wrong somehow.”
Detective Inspector Stuart Houston, who led the investigation, said: “The loss of Mr Aryaie Nekoo has had a massive impact on his wife and family, both in Scotland and his native Iran. At the time of his death, Mr Nekoo had established himself as a private hire driver and had settled in the city.
“As part of the police investigation it was established that prior to this incident Mr Aryaie Nekoo and Nolan had a disagreement over a disputed insurance claim with no other previous contact.
“This appears to have been the catalyst for the events on that day.”
Giving evidence through an interpreter, Mrs Jafari had told the court that her husband left their home in Carrick Knowe Hill to drive his private hire car and she had given him a kiss. She added: “It was the last time I saw him.”
The couple married in 2010 and lived together in Iran before coming to Scotland where Mr Aryaei Nekoo had lived before and had a ten-year-old son from a previous marriage.
He was found in Saughton Park park by a dog walker. His Vauxhall Zafira was parked nearby with the lights still on.
Jurors were shown tyre tracks which prosecutors claimed showed how Mr Aryaie Nekoo was chased by Nolan at the wheel of his black cab.
A post-mortem found that the victim suffered a horrific catalogue of injuries including a broken skull and some 40 rib fractures. Following the incident, Nolan drove to Wester Hailes police station and told officers that the death was an unexplained accident. He claimed it had happened after Mr Aryaie Nekoo had threatened him with a knife.
Nolan did not give evidence but defence QC Donald Findlay said Mr Aryaie Nekoo went to Saughton Park for “a physical confrontation.”
After the jury found Nolan guilty, judge Lady Wise told the cabbie: “The only sentence for murder is life imprisonment.”
Nolan, of Redhall Place, Longstone, will return to court on April 23 to be sentenced.
Road rage incidents
STEPHEN Nolan had been accused of a number of road rage incidents in the Capital involving other taxi drivers.
The charges – dating back to 2008 related to assault and disorderly conduct – were dropped during the trial.
In one alleged incident, taxi driver Joseph O’Connor said he was threatened by Nolan after overtaking his black cab and accidentally violating cabbie “etiquette”.
A taxi driver, who asked not to be named, estimated that around two-thirds of cabbies in the city observed the unwritten laws of trade etiquette.
He said: “For instance, if a driver goes on to a greenways when another driver is stuck in traffic for some reason then you don’t pick up a fare ahead of them.”