A woman who claimed a taxi driver sexually assaulted her at knifepoint in his cab has been jailed after he used a recording application on his smartphone to expose her lies. Astria Berwick, 27, slashed herself in the face with a knife in an effort to convince police that she had been attacked and groped by Mohammed Asif. The driver was arrested within three hours and taken to a police station in handcuffs.
He was stripped and spent a day in a cell until officers eventually listened to the recording and discovered Berwick was lying.
Yesterday, as she started a 16-month jail term for perverting the course of justice, Mr Asif, 34, said that without the app he would now be the one in jail.
The father of two said: ‘Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, and I have never been involved with the police. Now I am terrified if I pick a single lady up.
‘I think her sentence was too short. She could have completely ruined my life. She should have got three or four years at the very least.’
Mr Asif used his Samsung Galaxy S2’s voice recorder to tape Berwick’s 11-mile journey from Nottingham to her home in Bingham after his base told him she appeared to be drunk when making the 4.50pm booking in February.
He said that while the journey went smoothly, apart from when he had to pull over in a lay-by to allow her to vomit, Berwick argued about the £17 fare when he picked her up, which he believes may be why she made the allegation against him.
After the journey, she thanked him twice. He started out to return to base, but was stopped by police.
Officers told Mr Asif that Berwick claimed he pounced on her from behind when she vomited by the side of the road before cutting her with a knife.
The taxi driver, who lives in Carlton Hills, Nottingham, was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.
He said: ‘They took everything from me, including my clothes, and I was crying in the cell. I told them there was a recording on my phone – I was saying “please check it”.’
Lies: Mr Asif, who told how he broke down in a police cell after he was falsely accused of sexual assault, said Berwick’s lies had torn his life apart
‘The woman only wanted to pay £11 and had to go to a cash machine to get more money. She wasn’t very happy.
‘I don’t record all my journeys, but the office told me she had been drinking and that I should ask for payment up front.
‘So I put my phone on the dashboard cradle and left it on. If I hadn’t, I would be in jail now, I am certain of that.
‘My son is 14 and my daughter is eight. They were crying when I came back and were asking why I had been arrested.
‘The police raided my house and searched my taxi looking for the knife which she says I used to cut her with.
‘She really has turned my life upside down.’
Berwick was jailed at Nottingham Crown Court after she admitted perverting the course of justice. Judge Michael Stokes QC said she had pretended to be the victim of sexual assault for ‘some unaccountable reason’.
He told her: ‘This was outrageous behaviour by the defendant against a wholly innocent man who was saved by the recording on his phone.
‘Had he not recorded the conversation which demonstrated that nothing untoward had occurred, he would probably still be in custody awaiting trial.’
On her Facebook page, Berwick says she is ‘honest as I don’t like lying (that’s probably my downfall, too honest)’ and ‘enjoys a good joke (sometimes at other people’s expense)’.
She lists her favourite quotations as ‘do unto others as they would do unto you’, and ‘what comes around goes around’.