A DRUNKEN thug punched and choked a taxi passenger after a cabbie refused to take him home on New Year's Eve.

Eric Thomas, 25, warned Phillip Wilcox he had him in a “death grip” and was going to kill him during the terrifying attack in Ebbw Vale.

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The defendant carried out the unprovoked assault in front of his own girlfriend and the victim’s wife who were both screaming at him to stop.

Mr Wilcox was sticking up for driver Kevin Windross from Brighties Taxis as he was dropping the victim, his elderly mother, and wife off following a party.

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Prosecutor Nuhu Gobir said Thomas tried to flag down the cab before approaching it as the passengers were getting out outside Mr and Mrs Wilcox’s home.

Cardiff Crown Court heard how the defendant demanded that Mr Windross take him home to Beaufort.

Thomas became aggressive towards the taxi driver when he told him he couldn’t accept the fare.

He then attacked Mr Wilcox when he intervened on behalf of Mr Windross.

Mr Gobir said: “The defendant pushed the victim's head against the taxi and he became disorientated.

“He then punched Mr Wilcox to the face and the two men grabbed each other and ended up on the ground.

This was an unforgivable act of violence

“The defendant wrapped his legs around his waist from behind and put Mr Wilcox in a headlock and started squeezing his throat tightly to the point that he was choking and could not breathe.

“He told him, I’ve got you in a death grip. You’re going to die.’ “Mrs Wilcox recalls the defendant telling her husband, ‘I’ve got you. I’m going to kill you old man. What are you going to do now?’”

The prosecutor said how Mrs Wilcox, Thomas’ girlfriend Georgia Russell were screaming at the defendant to stop.

Mr Gobir added how they and Mr Windross all tried unsuccessfully to get him off the victim.

The taxi driver tried to call 999 but he couldn’t get a signal.

Thomas only stopped assaulting Mr Wilcox when Miss Russell shouted at her partner that the police were coming.

To “defuse” the situation, Mr Windross drove the defendant away from the scene by taking him home and dropped him outside the Greyhound pub in Beaufort.

The taxi driver then returned to check on Mr Wilcox before the police asked him to take the victim to hospital because there were no ambulances available.

The victim’s injuries included a broken nose, loose teeth, a swollen lip and a wound on his forehead.

Thomas, 25, of Beaufort Rise, Beaufort, Ebbw Vale, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm on January 1, 2020.

He had four previous convictions for six offences, including one for ABH when he was a youth.

Jeffrey Jones, mitigating, told the court his client was working as a sub-contractor on a project in Abergavenny and has a young family to support.

The judge, Recorder Greg Bull QC, told Thomas he had been drunk when he assaulted Mr Wilcox.

He said: “This was a serious offence of violence. It was, quite frankly, unforgivable.”

The defendant was jailed for 10 months, but the sentence was suspended for 18 months.

Thomas was ordered to complete a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement and carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

He must pay Mr Wilcox £500 compensation, prosecution costs of £1,000 after his late guilty plea and a victim surcharge.

Thomas was also made the subject of a five-year restraining order not to contact Mr and Mrs Wilcox.

Mr Gobir said the defendant had bitten Mrs Wilcox’s index finger but was not charged over it.