Row over fare prompted death of Gosport taxi driver

Trevor Fentiman
Trevor Fentiman

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AN argument with two Royal Navy sailors contributed to the death of a taxi driver, a coroner has ruled.

Trevor Fentiman, from Gosport, died of a heart attack after the incident at the gate of HMS Sultan in Military Road in the early hours of December 20, 2012.

Mr Fentiman, 68, had driven Leading Seamen James Phull and Thomas Morris back to the base after a night out.

At an inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall yesterday, coroner David Horsley heard the sailors refused to pay the full fare leading to an argument, which prompted Mr Fentiman to have a heart attack.

LS Phull, 28 and LS Morris, 29, said they got into Mr Fentiman’s taxi after a drinking session in Gosport High Street.

Mr Phull said he asked the taxi driver for a quote for the trip and asked how much it would cost ‘per metre’.

But Mr Fentiman said he was unable to confirm the fare until the ride was over.

After arriving at Sultan, LS Phull said he paid Mr Fentiman £5, although the taxi driver had asked for £8, as displayed on the meter. ‘I thought it was a reasonable amount to pay,’ LS Phull said.

The seamen got out of the taxi and approached the gatehouse, with Mr Fentiman following.

The gate staff tried to calm the situation, before telling the sailors to go to their rooms and asking Mr Fentiman to wait in his taxi.

Soon after, a staff member approached the driver and found him slumped over the steering wheel. They slid him out of the taxi onto the pavement and tried to revive him using CPR and a defibrillator.

An ambulance took Mr Fentiman to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, where he was pronounced dead.

The two seamen were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter later that morning, but then released without charge.

Mr Horsley commended HMS Sultan staff members Matthew Hudson, Lance Corporal Daniel Taylor, L/Cpl Philip Collins and Sergeant Darren Walsh for calling the ambulance and trying to save Mr Fentiman’s life.

The inquest heard Mr Fentiman had been diagnosed with heart disease in 1996 and diabetes in 2003, and was obese with a body mass index of 32.5.

In giving his conclusion, Mr Horsley said: ‘Notwithstanding the fact that Mr Fentiman had a long-standing heart disease which I have heard could have caused his death at any time... this altercation contributed to this collapse occurring when it did.’

Mr Fentiman was married and had five children.