A man accused of posing as a taxi driver and abducting a drunk woman has walked free from court.
Shabir Shaikh is said to have picked up the woman in Edinburgh city centre before driving her to a secluded layby on the outskirts of the city where he attempted to molest her.
Shaikh, of Craigour Drive, Edinburgh, was alleged to have put his hand up the woman’s dress before fondling her breast during the alleged sex attack near to the Hillend ski centre in April last year.
But following a four-day trial at the capital’s sheriff court this week a jury delivered a majority not proven verdict resulting in 32-year-old Shaikh walking free.
The woman had told the court she had she feared she would be “raped and murdered” after realising the car she had got into was not a taxi.
The alleged victim told the court she had been out in Edinburgh city centre with two pals celebrating a birthday.
The group had enjoyed drinking sessions at the capital’s Cavendish nightspot before heading to the trendy George Street bar Why Not?
But after saying their goodbyes the woman decided to head for a bus home by cutting through the Grassmarket area where she said she encountered Shaikh sitting in his car.
And after chatting and giving him a cigarette, the woman “stupidly assumed” he was a taxi after he offered to give her a lift to her Midlothian home.
But she claimed instead of driving her home Shaikh headed off into the countryside south of the city where she said he sexually assaulted her.
She said: “When he didn’t take the junction to get on the bypass I realised something wasn’t right. He carried on towards the ski slope and I asked him a number of times to turn round.
“I remember passing the Flotterstone Inn before he pulled into a layby – it was really dark and there was no lighting.
“Before the layby I was worried about what he was going to do with me. Then when we pulled over I thought it was very possible I could be raped and murdered.
“I was petrified – I was trying to figure out whether to shout or get angry, or would that make it worse and make him angry? He was calm.”
The woman – who broke down several times while giving her evidence – then described how Shaikh attempted to put his hand on her thigh and “tried to reach somewhere I didn’t want him to reach”.
She said she eventually managed to phone a friend and alert her to the attack and Shaikh dumped her on the city bypass at around 4.30am.
During the trial the charge of posing as taxi driver was deleted from the charge, and Thursday Sheriff Kenneth Maciver told Shaikh he was free to leave the dock following the jury’s decision to return a majority not proven verdict.
Shaikh had continually denied abducting the woman while posing as a taxi driver, detaining her and assaulting her by touching her inner thigh and breast at a point near Hillend, Edinburgh, on April 12 last year.