A HERO taxi driver who stood up to a gunman - and suffered a heart attack after giving evidence against him - has been rewarded for his "extraordinary bravery".

Colin Metcalfe fell ill after appearing in court to read a victim statement when Mark Anthony Ainsley was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for the gunpoint attempted robbery.

Mr Metcalfe - a champion saloon driver known to his friends as Paul - won praise from York’s most senior judge for his “bravery and public spirited” quick thinking.

He “drove hell for leather” through the centre of York trying to attract other motorists’ attention with gunman Ainsley, 28, in the car shouting at him and threatening to shoot him unless he handed over money, the Honorary Recorder of York, Judge Paul Batty QC, told York Crown Court.

Mr Metcalfe took what Judge Batty QC called an “extraordinarily brave decision” to speed off, pressing his horn to attract attention.

Ainsley got out empty-handed near the De Grey Rooms in St Leonard’s Place and fled on foot.

“However, Mr Metcalfe wasn’t finished,” said the judge. “He turned around his taxi and went looking for the gunman until he flagged down a passing police car in Gillygate.”

Ainsley, of Wilberforce Avenue, Clifton, York, is now serving a 10 year and eight month prison sentence after admitting attempting to rob Mr Metcalfe, possessing an imitation firearm and escaping from custody after his arrest - sparking a five-day manhunt throughout York.

On the day of Ainsley’s sentencing, Mr Metcalfe attended court to read a personal statement, and was later taken to hospital with chest pains, then spent days in hospital and weeks unable to work while he recuperated.

Mr Metcalfe said he and his wife believed his heart attack had its roots in Ainsley’s actions.

Doctors noted that the stress of appearing before the gunman in court - which Mr Metcalfe chose to do as a means of gaining closure over the incident - had been a factor in his illness.

The taxi driver's heart had tensed so much - in a condition called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy - it had changed shape, and he will need to take tablets for the rest of his life.

He said: “That has to be my closure now, I can’t get it anywhere else. Though I had a heart attack I think the time off from driving has helped me get it all out of my head, being around my family and wife.

“It’s changed my life now, and it all stems back to this one incident. I’ve always raced cars and put myself under pressure because that makes you better at it, but I’ve never had anybody stick a gun to my head and say I’m going to shoot you. That’s a different level.”

Mr Metcalfe's wife Janice - who is also a driver in York - took time off to look after her husband, and said they had used most of their savings while neither was able to work.

She said: “We have spent all our savings and it’s just not right. Just because of three minutes in a car and because he wanted money.

“It’s all Ainsley’s fault, he just doesn’t realise the aftermath of what he’s done. He’s caused our family a lot of heartache and doesn’t realise it. I doubt he’d bother if he knew.”

As previously reported in The Press, Ainsley jumped into the taxi as Mr Metcalfe waited at traffic lights in Haxby Road, then pulled out an imitation pistol that police said was so realistic he had no way of knowing it was not real.

Mr Metcalfe was awarded £750 from the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire for his courage.

Judge Batty QC told the High Sheriff and York Crown Court that Ainsley was "no match for Mr Metcalfe, a York taxi driver with 35 years experience in the job".

The judge said: “The successful prosecution of Ainsley was in large part due to the bravery and public spirited actions of Mr Metcalfe.”

Mr Metcalfe said he was grateful to his fellow drivers and friends for rallying round him, and he hoped to start 2018 afresh.

He said: “I’m still working nights, but I’m changing my car and getting rid of that one."

Mr Metcalfe said he was looking forward to 2018, adding: “I feel good.”