By Maeve Lee
A 20-year-old NUIG student has spoken out about her experience of sexual assault in a ‘fake taxi’ in Galway city last year following the circulation of a similar story on social media.
A Facebook message describing another girl’s encounter with a cloned taxi made its way around social media platforms two weeks ago. The message described the girl’s lucky escape from the vehicle after she got a strange feeling about the male driver.
Laura Murphy Booth, however, was not as lucky. Last year, the then first-year student was sexually assaulted in a fake taxi during a night out in Galway city. Upon hearing about this similar story, the Arts student decided to break her silence and utilised social media to share her story with the hopes of it acting as a warning to other women in the city.
The Facebook message that circulated social media sites which prompted Ms Murphy Booth to take to Instagram and publicly discuss her encounter with a cloned taxi.
“When I saw that myself, my stomach just dropped. I was like, ‘it’s happened,’” said Ms Booth.
“I had tried my best to prevent this from happening to another girl and maybe it’s my fault – I didn’t go to social media, you know, that’s not everyone’s first thing – to broadcast what’s happened… there can be disbelief, there can be backlash and so my first response was not to go to social media and I was so angry I hadn’t… because obviously this girl would have been a local to me, she might have seen it.”
On the 11 March last year, Ms Murphy Booth hailed down a taxi outside what was then Carbon nightclub. She was bringing a drunk friend home before returning to the nightclub by herself.
“When I met the Garda Liaison person for NUIG a thing that stuck with me that he said was what I did that night is what he teaches first years…if your friend is too drunk, get a taxi with them, bring them home, don’t walk home on your own.”
As Ms Murphy Booth got back into the taxi alone, the driver locked the doors before informing her that he had locked her phone and purse into the glove compartment. The man then began to circle estates in the Newcastle area as Ms Murphy Booth attempted to talk the situation down.
“I just started to panic, I started to cry a bit… we were in this back estate – I couldn’t even tell you where… just driving around through estates up towards Hazel Park direction… I think there’s like a football pitch up there, I remember seeing it and that’s where he sexually assaulted me.”
The man who sexually assaulted Ms Murphy Booth could not be identified. Like many of these fake taxis, the car in question had fake registration plates as well as a fake light bar, which Gardaí informed Ms Murphy Booth can be easily bought on Amazon. The taxi could not be captured on any CCTV cameras within the city or near Ms Murphy Booth’s home in Hazel Park where she had dropped off her friend.
“The Garda on my case was like, he [the driver] knew what he was doing and it was very clear that this wasn’t his first time… and because he was going to get away with what he had done to me, it was going to happen again.”
Almost a year on, Laura Murphy Booth wants to ensure that no one has to experience what she went through. She strives to make students aware of the dangers of fake taxis and how to avoid being in the situation she found herself in last spring.
“It should be something that is known. It should be something that is put out there. Maybe not even talk about what has happened – what has happened to me…but the signs that you need to look out for and that people know that there are dangerous people out there and unfortunately young boys and young girls are targets.”
If you are unsure about a taxi, you can check that is registered through an app called DriverCheck which is run by the National Transport Authority.