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Leon McCaskie: Driver who ran down knifeman in Maida Vale says he will forever be haunted by incident

05 February 2022

he driver who mowed down and killed a man who had just stabbed his ex-partner to death in the street in Maida Vale has given his first public interview since the brutal incident.

Yasmin Chkaifi, 43, was stabbed multiple times in broad daylight in Maida Vale, west London, on January 24 by her ex partner Leon McCaskie. Ms Chkaifi’s cause of death was confirmed as multiple stab wounds.

A number of witnesses tried unsuccessfully to stop McCaskie, before the driver ran him over in a blue Renault. McCaskie was pronounced dead at the scene.

The man was reportedly arrested on suspicion of murder (Aaron Chown/PA)

/ PA Wire

The 26-year-old driver, known as Abraham, was arrested on suspicion of murder but has since been released with no further action.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said he will forever be haunted by the image of McCaskie’s hands dangling under his car.

He said he had been driving to work in his blue Renault Clio having woken up late on the morning of the harrowing incident.

“I overslept, which I don’t often do and I was on my way at 9am when I heard shouting and screaming. I knew something was wrong,’ he says.

“The traffic was going very slowly and I saw a man chasing a group of people. I didn’t understand what was happening. Then I saw a woman lying on the pavement and the man had run back and was stabbing her.

“I saw the steel blade in his hand. I stopped my car by the kerb. None of the other cars had stopped. I was shocked, terrified, but I thought: "I have to do something."

“…Next, I saw the man stab the woman on the floor three times in the chest. I don’t remember blood. My eyes just fixed on the knife, the steel blade.

“I thought: "I cannot go away and leave her." I had to help, to try to save her. I did not have time to consider. I thought the safest and quickest option was to push the man away from the woman with my car.’

“So I put my car into first gear and drove up the kerb and onto the pavement. It was a short distance, ten or 12 ft, and I pushed him, I made an impact. I managed to avoid the woman.

He continued: “Then I took my foot off the gas but my car didn’t stop. The momentum continued and I knew the man was under my car. I opened the door and I saw his hand sticking out from under it. That sight stays with me and always will: the man’s hand sticking out.”

He was later arrested on suspicion of murder and held in custody at Charing Cross police station.

However, on Tuesday the Metropolitan Police release him with no further action.

“I was fixing a boiler when Tasnime rang with the good news,’ Abraham recalled. “He said, "They’ve dropped the case" and I could hardly believe it. I said a special prayer of thanksgiving.”

He added it was never his intention to hurt or kill McCaskie.

“He died and I never wanted to hurt or kill him,” Abraham says. ‘I know his family would rather have seen him in prison than dead and I feel sorry for them. My intention was only to protect Yasmin. Her children are orphaned and I would like to meet them one day and try to help them as much as I can.”

In a statement tweeted by Abraham’s lawyer following his release, he said he was “grateful” the force had “taken this sensible course of action”.

He said: “I once again wish to express my gratitude to the British public who supported me so vocally at this most stressful and trying time. I hope that in my actions a message has been sent to society: should yo see an evil it is a duty upon you to stop it with your own hands, if you cannot you should stop it by speaking out, if you cannot then at the very least you should hate it with your heart. May peace be upon you all.”

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Rawlinson said: “Having reviewed the CCTV evidence and taken statements of numerous members of the public and attending officers, as well as reviewing the legal position regarding self-defence and defence of another, a decision has been taken that the driver of the car, a 26-year-old man, will face no further police action.

“He is considered a vital witness to our investigation and will be offered support from professionals to help him come to terms with the terrifying situation he was confronted with.

“It is vitally important that when a person dies there is a thorough investigation into all of the circumstances and this has taken place. Such decisions must be thoroughly examined and while this process takes time this has been a priority for my team. The man’s legal advisers have been informed of this decision.

“Inquests have opened in relation to both deaths and my team will continue to work to provide evidence for the coroner. We continue to appeal for witnesses to this incident who have yet to speak to police to come forward and do so.”

Thousands of people signed a petition in support of the driver, and members of Ms Chfaiki’s family were also reported to have hailed him as “a hero”.

An inquest into her death began on Tuesday.

Coroner Professor Fiona Wilcox said: “I would like to pass my sympathy to Yasmin’s family for their loss. This is a truly shocking and distressing death and I cannot imagine what you must be going through as a family at this time.”

Police had previously given his surname as McCaskre and age as 41, but he also used the surname McCaskie and his age was given in court as 38.