Bendigo taxi driver guilty of rape

UPDATE: A BENDIGO taxi driver has been found guilty of raping a female passenger in October, 2012.

Robert McNeil Byrnes has been remanded in custody after being found guilty by a County Court jury of two counts of rape and two of indecent assault.

He will now plead guilty to five indecent assaults relating to other victims.

The court heard the first victim hailed a taxi about 3.30am on October 21, 2012, near the corner of McCrae and Bridge Streets in Bendigo

The woman asked to be taken to Kangaroo Flat and engaged in small talk with the driver, until he picked up two male passengers near the Shamrock Hotel. The group continued small talk until the men were dropped off at Golden Square.

The woman said that as the driver, now known as Byrnes, drove off, he placed his hand on her right thigh. 

"I shifted towards the door to get away from him and then um he stopped for a second ... I didn't know what to do ...I was really scared,'' the victim told the court.

"I just sort of ignored it and hoped that he wouldn't do it again but he ended up putting his hand on my inner thigh and put his hand underneath my underwear and ... I tapped his hand away and moved away.  

"This happened again shortly afterwards and I pointed my knees towards the door. 

"This happened three times, I knocked him away on the fourth time. ''

 The victim told the court the driver knew she had lost her phone, and "he took advantage of me in that way''.

"He just kept persisting and he turned right into Harvey Norman which isn't in the direction of my house and I asked him what he was doing um and he said, 'don't worry,  the meter's off'.

"He pulled up in the Harvey Norman car park and he got out ... he got out of the taxi and came around to my side, my side of the door.

"I was just sitting there, I was frozen ... I didn't know what to do.  

"I was just thinking if I should try and run for it or what I should do but he just came around and he opened the door and asked me to get out and grabbed my arm and got me out of the taxi.''

The woman was then raped in the back of taxi, before Byrnes asked her if she was "on the pill'' and dropped her off along the highway in Kangaroo Flat.

"We drove back along the highway and I made him drop me off along the highway because I didn't want him to know where I live and I walked home and woke up my parents and told them and they called the police,'' she said.

The court was told a hat was placed over a camera in the taxi during the assault.

The victim told the court she was ''frightened of him, he was really scary'' and had nowhere to run, so did what he wanted when he grabbed her by the arm and took her to the back of the taxi.

She told the court the death of Jill Meagher, which had occurred only months earlier, was in her mind.

The victim's mother told the court she was woken by her daughter about 4am, who said "the taxi driver just raped me''.  

"She become very distraught, she started to sort of double over,'' the mother said.  "She was just trying to get it out, what he'd done, like that he had raped her ...  she was on the point of hysterics.  

"She was saying, 'I thought he would kill me ... I thought he would murder me'.

EARLIER: A BENDIGO taxi driver has been found guilty of raping a female passenger in 2012.

A County Court jury this week found Robert McNeil Byrnes guilty of two counts of rape and two of indecent assault. 

He has also pleaded guilty to five indecent assaults. 

Byrnes has been remanded in custody until June 23, when he will face a plea hearing and sentencing for seven indecent assault charges and two rape charges 

The charges related to offences in October 2012, with two of the victims being passengers in Byrnes’ taxi.

He was arrested after two females made reports to police.

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