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Exec ‘feared for life’ while stealing cab: court

COURT - BRETT HENSON
Brett Henson arrives at court with lawyer Paul McGirr. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

A former high-flying real estate executive has told a court that he stole a taxi from Sydney’s CBD to get away from a group of men who were attempting to kill him.

Brett Henson had a dispute with a taxi driver, Sayeed Ali Khan, over a broken door handle shortly before 9pm on November 4, 2022, telling a court stealing the taxi was the “only option” to save his life.

Police allege he stole the silver taxi from Hunter St in the CBD while intoxicated after threatening Mr Khan.

The 44-year-old told Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Monday he was “petrified” after the argument.

Mr Henson had attempted to get into the cab but told the court that he was flung backwards to the ground when the door handle broke. He denied he fell due to alcohol intoxication.

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Former Mirvac executive Brett Henson is fighting allegations of stealing a motor vehicle and dangerous driving. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

He told the court that he told Mr Khan, who isn’t accused of any wrongdoing, he would “add it to the bill” when he got home, but the driver asked him to get the money out of an ATM.

The former Mirvac executive said Mr Khan was “extremely aggressive” and had been trying to “extort” money before a group of five men set upon him. Mr Henson told the court the group involved Mr Khan.

“They were taking the side of the taxi driver trying to get money out of me, trying to get my phone or wallet. I said to leave me alone,” Mr Henson said.

“When they were chasing me I said ‘just call the police’ and they responded with ‘we are the police’.”

Mr Henson is fighting a range of driving offences at a hearing in the local court, including stealing a motor vehicle and dangerous driving.

The former prominent real estate figure was arrested in late 2022 after photos of the incident were circulated by NSW Police. He is now unemployed.

He told the court that the men, who were all “much bigger” than him, told Mr Henson they were the “Muslim brotherhood”.

*FILE PIX* NCA NewsWire Photos: CCTV footage allegedly shows Mirvac executive Brett Henson falling over on to his back after having an altercation with a Sydney taxi driver. Picture: NCA NewsWire handout
Footage shows Mr Henson falling after he attempted to get into a taxi on Hunter St. Picture: NCA NewsWire handout

Mr Henson attempted to run away from the group but told the court they wouldn’t leave him alone and surrounded him for 10 minutes.

“I was petrified, trying to get away from these guys,” Mr Henson told the court.

He told the court that he got “belted” and landed on the ground with his shirt ripped open, resulting in bruises on his arms, hip and chest.

The court was told the men were saying “let’s f**king get him”.

“I needed to get away from there, there was no other way I can escape … I can’t call the police … there’s no other option,” Mr Henson told the court.

Mr Henson managed to get away from the group and jumped into the taxi.

He told the court that he was terrified of the group so he drove through multiple red lights before he finally stopped at an intersection in the eastern suburbs.

When asked by his lawyer Paul McGirr what was going through his head, Mr Henson said: “These guys are going to kill me.

“I would be a victim of a king hit and my family would be up here instead of me being here today explaining.”

CCTV footage released by police allegedly shows Mr Henson stealing a taxi in Sydney's CBD in November, 2022. Picture: NSW Police
CCTV footage released by police allegedly shows Mr Henson stealing a taxi in Sydney's CBD in November, 2022. Picture: NSW Police

Under cross-examination from a police prosecutor, Mr Henson told the court that he was being “aggressively” pursued by the group.

“They were harassing me, hounding me,” he said.

Mr Henson was questioned about CCTV footage where he was seen walking rather than running away from the group.

“You must have been walking because you thought it was safe to be walking,” the prosecutor said.

“No, that’s not correct, there’s no moment I felt safe,” Mr Henson said.

The court was told Mr Henson told a friend and his wife about what had happened to him.

Mr Henson was questioned why he didn’t contact police for a week.

“I ask myself this question all the time … I was violently attacked I don’t know, I just wanted the whole thing to disappear so I could pretend it never happened,” he said.

Police allege Mr Henson drove dangerously before the car was dumped in Woollahra with “significant damage”.

The police prosecutor told the court in closing submissions that CCTV footage did not support Mr Henson’s version of events, claiming someone who was scared would be “sprinting, on your phone or calling out”.

“There was no real risk of violence to Mr Henson’s safety,” the prosecutor argued.

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He is being represented by Paul McGirr (left). Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

“There clearly were other options available.

“His failure to raise the alarm, to call the police, to make any serious record – he says in his first breath he did what he did because he was in fear of his life and then when he gets home he wants to forget about it.”

But Mr McGirr said his client took the cab because he was under duress.

Mr McGirr described it as a “unique case” but urged the magistrate to assess his client as someone who has never had any findings of criminality.

He said his client had “genuine concerns” he could have died in a “one-punch” attack.

“Who would not be petrified when they’re outnumbered and saying the things they said?” Mr McGirr said.

Mr Khan last year told the court that Mr Henson was “aggressive” and shouted at himself, other cab drivers and bystanders gathered on the busy CBD street.

Mr Khan claimed Mr Henson had said “(do) you want to fight with me?”

He told the court he did not know the people who pursued Mr Henson.

Mr Henson was reportedly a senior capital transactions manager for property developing giant Mirvac at the time of the alleged offence and owns a $3.3m house in Bronte.

Magistrate Gregory Moore has reserved his decision for a later date.