A 24-year-old Belfastman, said to have “a wee hard man walk”, wept as he was unanimously convicted of threatening to shoot a taxi driver by “blowing his brains out”.
Lee Hosie, from the city’s Shore Road, first shut his eyes in apparent disbelief as he was also convicted of possessing a firearm or imitation with intent to cause fear of violence, and making off without paying his taxi fare three years ago.
Hosie was also seen to wipe tears from his eyes after Judge Piers Grant remanded him into custody for reports prior to his sentencing next month.
His three-day Crown Court trial heard that when initially questioned, Hosie denied being the man pictured on CCTV getting into the taxi. He told police it couldn’t be him because the suspect had “a wee hard man walk”.
However, during his trial while Hosie admitted he was that man, he maintained he was never armed, or threatened to shoot the driver, that “it definitely didn’t happen” and the taxi driver had made it all up.
The court heard that the incident, in the early hours of December 4, 2012, conincided with the start of the loyalist flag protests over the flying of the Union Flag at Belfast’s City Hall.
The Value Cabs driver told the court how he sat terrified after Hosie pointed a gun into his face, threatening to shoot him, before telling him the only thing preventing him from “blowing his brains out” was a shortage of ammunition.
The Catholic driver said the threat was issued after he witnessed the gun in the footwell of the taxi, and after he refused to reveal what his religion was.
The weapon had fallen into the passenger footwell when the driver braked hard at a set of traffic lights on the journey across the city from the Ross House flats in Mount Vernon to Donegall Pass.
Hosie, he claimed, “bent down and picked it up and put it back inside his coat and told me to mind my own business”.
The driver said that Hosie had also questioned him about being either “a Prod, or a Taig ... I told him I was a taxi driver trying to earn a living and what I was was nobody else’s business”.
At their destination Hosie got out of the taxi and approached two men in the street before returning to the cab. Thinking he was about to pay the £6.60 fare, the driver wound down his window, only for Hosie to “put his hand inside his coat and pulled out the gun and stuck it in my face. He pointed it directly in my face, about two feet away.
“He said he was going to blow my f****** brains out. He said that only for the fact he had so few bullets he would have f****** shot me.”
The driver said at this point, he heard one of the men in the street telling Hosie to “wind his neck in” as they had “more important things to do”.
The driver said he then drove away and notifed the depot, who in turn notified the PSNI.
The jury of eight women and four men took just over two hours to deliver their verdict.