Uber driver charged in four separate incidents of sexual assault
by Mike Beggs
In the latest round of horrors surrounding “fake” Private Transportation Company (PTC) drivers, an Uber operator has been charged with the sexual assault of four women between December of 2017 and October of 2018.
On October 17, Toronto Police announced the arrest of 38-year-old Senol Komec, of Vaughan, who faces four counts of sexual assault, and another four counts of forcible confinement.
In the first attack on December 16, 2017, a 31-year-old woman ordered an Uber ride home around 2 a..m. in the King Street West-Blue Jay Way area. According to police she was picked up by the accused, who was not her assigned Uber driver and, allegedly, sexually assaulted.
About 2 a.m. on April 13, a second sexual assault was reported in the Bloor Street West-Madison Avenue area. Again, Police say the 19-year-old woman was not picked up by the Uber driver dispatched to her.
The third incident occurred around 2:40 a.m. on July 2 in the Lakeshore Road West-Hurontario Street area, of Mississauga. Police say a 38-year-old woman was sitting outside a restaurant, and was approached by a man in a car offering her a ride. She accepted, and was driven to a parking lot where she alleges she was sexually assaulted, before fleeing the car.
The final attack took place in the Polston Street-Cherry Street area on October 13 at about 2 a.m. The 35-year-old woman was waiting on a taxi stand when a man parked nearby, said he was an Uber driver and offered her a ride. She was driven past her destination, and then is alleged to have been sexually assaulted.
The woman attempted to jump from the moving car, and subsequently escaped after the attack.
The accused made a court appearance on October 15, and was scheduled to make a second appearance on November 27 at College Park.
In a written statement Uber management said, “What’s been reported is horrible, and something no person should have to go through.”
The company said the driver was immediately deactivated from its’ app, and that it would provide information to the investigating authorities and cooperate with them in any way it can.
This series of attacks raised further questions about the merits of PTC driver background checks (which are outsourced), and the fact that dash-cams are optional in their cars. By contrast, Toronto taxi drivers must get a background check done through their district police station and present it to Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards in person, and in-car cameras are mandatory in all cabs.
“They’re always trying to pass the savings on to customers, but they forget why the rules were put in place to begin with,” alleges Mark Sexsmith, manager of All-Star Taxi, in Mississauga.
Beck Taxi operations manager Kristine Hubbard suggests, during this year-long period, there could have been better communication advising women to verify they’re getting in the right ride-sharing vehicle.
“When there have been four sexual assaults, I just think if they had heard about it (the victims might have been more aware). It’s just concerning,” she says.
“The first concern is these cars aren’t marked anyway, in many cases. And if it’s not a perfect photo how are you going to confirm it’s the same person? You’re in the dark. Cabs have the roof-light, and the numbers on the doors.”
Meanwhile, the family of a Toronto taxi driver who was robbed, beaten up, and left lying on the street unconscious on November 4 is horrified, and has, “lost faith in humanity.”
The incident took place shortly after 10 a.m. when veteran Beck driver Muhammad Saleem Khawja was dispatched to take two men and a woman from a home address at Silverthorne Rd. in the York area, to the downtown.
“I drove to Spadina and College, and they said, ‘Can you drop us at the Beer Store?’ (After they left the cab), I noticed they had taken my money,” he says from Credit Valley Hospital, where he is convalescing.
The 15-year veteran chased them down on foot and said, “I don’t want to fight, just give me my money back.”
“It was a very busy area. I tried to call everybody, ‘Can you help me, and call the police,’” he continues. “Nobody gave me help, and these guys beat me up badly.”
One of his three daughters, Sameera Saleem tells Taxi News, “There must have been hundreds of people on College Street at that time of day. They beat my father to the point where he lost consciousness. One good person found him, and called paramedics.”
Khawja’s attack came just over a month after three Toronto men were arrested and charged with a string of gunpoint taxi robberies.
The Mississauga resident is still awaiting test results for free fluid on his spleen.
“He’s over 50. It’s going to take time to heal,” Saleem relates. “He got severely bruised all over his body. They hit him in the head a lot.
“He’s the sole breadwinner of the family. He starts work at 4:30 or 5 in the morning. He works really hard, so for somebody to take his money (is a huge loss). His vehicle (a Dodge Caravan) was damaged, too. He only recently got his plate.”
The Pakistani native and his family are “very worried” that Police have still not made an arrest, although his camera provided a good image of the suspects, and Beck Taxi management has supplied them with a month’s worth of dispatch records.
“We want these people to be arrested and charged, and also that this news goes viral, so next time taxi drivers are safe,” Saleem states.
“It’s not the first time it happened to (my father). He was robbed twice before. But this was the first time he was attacked.”