An Indian taxi driver died following an incident in his taxi in the early hours of Sunday and the Auckland Police has opened a homicide investigation.
The driver, 39-year-old Hiren Mohini, had picked up a fare somewhere in the city and the incident that claimed his life took place on View Road, off Dominion Road in the Mount Eden area.
A police report said that the taxi crashed into a wall and a tree waking nearby residents who rushed to the scene to extricate Mr Mohini from the wreck of his taxi. He is believed to have succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
A man was reported to have been seen running away from the scene immediately after the incident and is being sought by the police. The police investigation team was still at the scene of the incident late this morning.
Dozens of taxi drivers and colleagues of Mr Mohini besides family, friends and neighbours assembled at his home this morning. Several of his colleagues from Auckland Co-operative Taxi Society told Indian Weekender they believed the passenger might have stabbed Mr Mohini causing him to lose control of his vehicle ending in the crash.
Some of his colleagues rushed to the scene of the accident immediately on hearing of it on the company’s communication system but found that emergency services had already arrived and were attending to Mr Mohini, who, by then may have already passed away.
Among the visitors to the Mohinis' residence this evening was National Party MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi. After expressing his condolences and those of his Parliamentary colleagues to the Mohini family, Mr Bakshi told Indian Weekender that he had apprised several ministers of the developments.
He said he had already spoken with Transport Minister Steven Joyce, Police Minister Judith Collins and Ethnic Affairs Minister Pansy Wong. "I have the assurance of all these ministers that they will do their utomst to bring the culprits to book and take steps to ensure such attacks are not repeated," Mr Bakshi said.
Mr Mohini had moved to New Zealand from Mumbai in about 2003, his close friend and schoolmate from Goregaon, Mumbai, Sachin Jadhav told Indian Weekender. He said he was driving his taxi for the past four years.
Another colleague, Shane, said Mr Mohini was one of the quietest blokes he knew and that he was always courteous and respectful. “If money is what the attacker wanted, he could have simply asked – and Hiren would have handed it to him with no hesitation,” he said.
Taxi driver Chittaranjan said this incident once again highlighted how risky driving taxis in Auckland could be. It strengthens the case for some sort of physical barrier between the front and back seats as a deterrent as is seen in many of the world’s big cities, he said.
Authorities had repeatedly stonewalled previous appeals for such measures and the drivers wanted to raise the issue once again Mr Mohini's colleagues said.
Mr Mohini, originally from Gujarat, leaves behind his wife, two daughters aged five and two and his mother.
Friends and colleagues have been congregating at the Mohini residence all day and have been participating in prayers.