After it was revealed that Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, who has now been remanded in custody following the incident where the driver of a blue Toyota Prius, when challenged by Police officers outside Buckingham Palace, drew a four foot sword and declaimed the phrase “Allahu Akbar” several times, was employed in the service of driver and rider matching service Uber, the firm was unusually reticent.
Uber is not usually backward in coming forwards to say something to its allegedly adoring public, even when the news is bad, but of late this has changed. Perhaps the imminent decision by TfL on whether or not to renew their operating license, and for how long if it is renewed, has caused the cat to get their tongue. Or it could be that the terror incident is such bad news that they have thought it better to just keep schtum.
Why that might be is not difficult to deduce: that part of the press from which Uber might have expected sympathy has gone for them big time. The Murdoch press was in the vanguard, the Sun leading on the story with “Car Terror Trial … PALACE RAIDER IS UBER DRIVER … Sword attack man in court”, and the Times observing “Palace attack suspect was ‘Uber driver lost on way to Windsor’”. Wait, what?
The Telegraph gave a hint of this magnificently pointless excuse: “Satnav sent Palace terror suspect to Windsor Castle pub”. A big boy did it and ran away. He pulled a sword on the cops because he was arguing in his spare time. Yes, we know that your average Uber car is piloted by Ron Hopeful and his satnav, but this is preposterous. Are we supposed to accept that a private hire driver needs a satnav to find Windsor Castle?
Whatever happened to following the signs off the M4? And, more to the point, what happened to the poor soul who was waiting for Chowdhury in Windsor? Or was he just heading to the town as another of those Uber drivers licensed by one authority who just happens to turn up on the patch of other authorities who, in turn, just happen to be so over-stretched that they can’t hope to keep tabs on them?
And although the Sun claims “It has emerged that the suspect first left his home to go to Windsor Castle in the afternoon … But he ended up outside a pub called The Windsor Castle in the Berkshire town, instead of the royal residence after entering the incorrect destination on his satnav”, it’s more likely he went to the Windsor Castle pub just off Holland Park, which is only a few minutes’ drive from Buck House.
When all of that is put together, perhaps it’s no wonder that Uber is keeping quiet. Punters don’t want to be driven around town by someone so inept they don’t know that Windsor Castle in not in central London, not to mention the incidental detail of a four foot sword under the driver’s seat. And TfL don’t need much prompting to know that if Chowdhury was another out of towner, it reflects very badly on them.
The case of Mohiussunnath Chowdhury is another nail in the Uber London coffin. Whether it is the final nail is largely down to TfL having the spine to pull their operating license.