An Eastbourne man held at knifepoint while working as a taxi driver has described the fear he felt as worse than what he experienced in war-torn Kosovo as a teenager.
Zac Mehmeti, a father-of-two, was driving two men from Old Town to Langney on April 27, 2015, when they held a knife to his throat and demanded money.
Zac has taken part in the Restorative Justice programme and was recently invited to an event in Lewes with Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and guest of honour Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal to speak about his experience of the scheme.
Restorative Justice allows victims of crime the chance to make contact with the perpetrators to help them come to terms with what has happened to them. Zac received a letter from the man who attacked him and he says it has helped him to find peace.
Zac spoke to the Herald following his meeting with Princess Anne on Thursday (February 23).
He said, “I picked up two people. There was one in the back and one in the passenger seat.
“The man in the back was talking on the phone and he started using really bad language. As I started to get to Langney he started moving about a lot in the back and I wondered what was happening. I thought he might be feeling ill so I stopped the car. He said he felt sick so I asked him to get out of the car but he said he would be OK as we were not far away.”
It was as Zac pulled up at their chosen destination, at around 1.30am, that a knife was pulled on him.
He said, “I couldn’t move or get away because I had the seatbelt on. He could have pushed that knife into my throat at any time. It is the worst and most terrifying thing that has happened to me.”
He was shocked by the experience and was unable to work afterwards - nearly losing the home and life he had built in Eastbourne with his wife and two children. He also told Princess Anne the robbery had shaken his faith in his adopted home.
He said, “I felt worse the night that happened than I felt during the war.
“I wondered if I was targeted because I’m foreign. I don’t have the words to describe how bad I was feeling – I was thinking about leaving the country. I told my wife that we weren’t safe here any more.”
But after receiving a letter from his attacker, Zac still struggles but has moved on and said, “He told me he was high on drink and drugs, that I could have been anyone.
“The support we received throughout the process from the police made me feel more confident and like someone cared for us again.”