Cabbie jailed for trying to kill brother-in-law

A taxi driver who made a series of death threats before setting fire to his brother-in-law’s house then twice attempting to run him over was yesterday jailed for 12 years.

Norwich Crown Court heard that Robert Whitby, 55, crashed into the parked car of his intended victim Michael Jackson before forcing his way into his home in Norwich Road, Middleton, near King’s Lynn. He smashed a coffee table over Mr Jackson’s head before firing a flare gun at him. The flare missed Mr Jackson, but sparked a fire which tore through the house, gutting the property.

Mr Jackson managed to flee on foot along the A47, but Whitby chased after him in his car, trying to run him over. Police arrived to find Mr Jackson trapped under Whitby’s vehicle. It is believed that, had they arrived moments later, Mr Jackson would have been killed.

Prosecutor John Farmer said Whitby, who had made two death threats the previous day, had embarked on a campaign to kill his brother-in-law after a dispute over the ownership of a taxi. As he was led away in handcuffs, Whitby shouted: “Next time you’ll be dead. It’s not over, my mates will get him.”

Mr Farmer added: “He was patently determined to kill him. Mr Jackson was terrified and described him as like a man possessed.”

The house was badly damaged and must be rebuilt at a cost of �130,000. Possessions worth between �30,000 and �60,000 were also destroyed in the blaze and Mr Jackson’s car was written off following the attack.

Although he escaped serious injuries, Mr Jackson continues to suffer psychologically. In a statement his wife Jane Jackson, who witnessed the attack, said: “During the day I am very distressed, but it is at night that I am most disturbed. I suffer nightmares and I lash out in my sleep.”

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Whitby, of Hillen Road, King’s Lynn, who has a history of violent crimes, pleaded guilty to attempted murder after the incident, in March this year. A second charge of arson was left to lie on file. The court heard the fire had been started accidentally as he tried to kill Mr Jackson.

Police arrived after being called by Whitby’s sister, Mrs Jackson. The court heard Whitby had fallen out with Mr and Mrs Jackson over the ownership of a Citroen Berlingo.

He had been working for the couple as a taxi driver, but took it “very badly” when they refused to register the vehicle in his name.

The court heard he had punched his sister as he arrived at the property, before attacking Mr Jackson.

Katharine Moore, mitigating, said Whitby was not “academic”, but was a “hard-working family man”. He had suffered from a number of “depressive episodes” in the run up to the incident.

She added: “He has no recollection of the incident, but he accepts that he intended to kill,”

Jailing Whitby, Mr Justice Bean said: “I regard this as a planned attempt to kill. You decided you were going to kill him.”

He said the incident had caused “enormous” psychological damage to Mr and Mrs Jackson and harmed their business.

“The value of what you destroyed in money terms was about �200,000, but it is even more serious in that the Jacksons’ lives were ruined,” he added.

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