A teenager who carried out a series of “despicably cruel” attacks on taxi drivers by throwing a liquid at them has been jailed.

Reggie Sime, 19, of no fixed address, targeted several taxi drivers for money in Watford in late September and early October last year by throwing ammonia in their faces.

St Albans Crown Court heard how Sime’s crime spree began in the early hours of Monday, September 21, when he booked a taxi from an address in Norwich, Norfolk, to take him to Harris Road in Watford.

On arrival, Sime exited the vehicle and approached the driver’s window to demand money.

He sprayed ammonia in the victim’s face which caused him immediate pain – in fear the man in his 40s handed over £165 in cash to Sime before calling the emergency services for help.

Five days later, a taxi driver went to collect a fare from Gullett Wood Road when Sime approached the vehicle, opened the passenger door and threatened the victim.

Sime demanded money and poured ammonia on the victim’s lap, causing a burning sensation to his nose and throat.

Watford Observer: Reggie Sime Reggie Sime

The victim, a man in his 50s, was scared and handed over a holdall containing his wallet and £170 cash. He immediately drove to a friend’s address where he sought help.

His holdall and wallet were later recovered by a dog walker who alerted police.

In another attack on September 28, a taxi driver in his 40s arrived outside Costcutter in Orbital Crescent to collect Sime, who opened the passenger door and began demanding money.

He threw a liquid in the victim’s face, which immediately caused his eyes to sting. More liquid was thrown on the victim’s face by Sime after he tried to get out the vehicle.

He chased Sime down the road but had to stop due to his vision becoming blurred – the victim has since sought medical treatment.

Nothing was stolen.

The last offence occurred on October 1 – Sime demanded money after a taxi driver went to collect him outside an address in Rushton Avenue.

Sime then sprayed the victim’s face with ammonia.

The victim, in his 30s, was concerned for his safety so immediately drove off and returned to the taxi office, where he washed his face. Nothing was stolen.

The victim’s colleagues called the police and he attended hospital to receive treatment. In his statement, he said he was in so much pain that he thought he’d been attacked with acid.

Sime was soon identified as a suspect via his phone number, which he had used to call the taxi in two of the offences.

He became wanted by police and later handed himself in at Watford police station. Sime was promptly arrested, charged and remanded in custody.

Sime previously pleaded guilty to the following counts on November 11, 2020:

  • Robbery – (two counts) 
  • Attempted robbery – (two counts)
  • Possession of an offensive weapon (liquid ammonia) – (four counts)

He was jailed for seven and a half years on Friday, January 22.

Detective Constable Andy Metselaar, from the Watford Local Crime Unit, led the investigation. He said: “The four victims were men simply doing their job and earning a living when they were callously attacked by Sime. I would first like to publicly pay tribute to the victims and the wider taxi community, who gave us such fantastic support during the course of our investigation.

“The third victim had vision complications with both his eyes for a period of time, and he still continues to suffer from occasional discomfort now. The other three victims also suffered initial pain, redness and swelling following the attack and were off work for a period of time. Thankfully all four victims have been able to return to work, but it could have easily been a different story.

“Sime’s actions were despicably cruel, and provides an insight into the sort of person he is. I sincerely hope he uses his prison sentence as time to reflect on why he chose to attack four innocent people in pursuit of money. No one should feel in fear when they go to work and I hope today’s sentencing provides each of the victims with a sense of closure on their ordeal.”

Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “These incidents were deeply frightening for the taxi drivers affected and my thoughts are with them. People should be able to go about their daily business free from any fear of violence or loss of their livelihood.

“I am pleased that through the proactive work of the police a person has been sentenced in connection with these offences. We will not tolerate criminal activity in our town and we will continue to work with the local police to keep the town safe for everyone.”

  • Previously, a 40-year-old man from Watford and a 19-year-old man from Stevenage were both arrested on suspicion of robbery in connection with the four offences. They remain under investigation at this time.
  • A 15-year-old boy from Watford was also arrested in connection with the investigation but later released with no further action.