This is Scots snooker legend John Higgins asleep in the back of a taxi... minutes before it’s claimed he woke up and a fled without paying a £5 fare.

Cabbie James Crawford says he picked up the four time world champion at the end of a boozy night out in Belfast after the Northern Ireland Open tournament at the city’s Waterfront Hall.

But as made short journey to a nearby Hilton hotel, James says Higgins, 44, fell asleep and then ran out the taxi as they pulled up.

Snooker legend John Higgins asleep in the back of the taxi
 

James, 57, said he arrived to collect Higgins at the Merchant Hotel on Skipper Street to find Higgins propping himself up against the railings outside.

James said a pal waiting on the street with the Scots sporting legend asked him to make sure he got back to his hotel safely and to “get him off the street as soon as possible”.

James said: “His mate was Scottish too and he told me to keep an eye on John and make sure he was safe. I knew who he was and I was happy to help.”

James Crawford is taxi driver who picked up John Higgins in Belfast

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The journey to Higgins’ hotel was only a few minutes drive away, but James claims he started singing ‘Up the Celts! Up the Celts!’ before quickly falling asleep on the back seat.

James said: “He was being really loud so I told him not to sing in the cab.

“He stopped straight away and I thought ‘that was easier than I expected it to be’, but when I when I turned around he was out of it.”

The journey made by John Higgins in a taxi driven by James Crawford
 

But it was when James arrived at Higgins’ hotel and tried to wake him from his sleep that he claims what should have been a straight-forward weeknight hire descended into chaos.

The Belfast dad said he managed to rouse Higgins who is originally from Wishaw.

James said: “I told him we’d arrived at his hotel and that the fare was a fiver but he just turned around and said ‘You’re getting f**k all from me.”

The commotion between the two alerted another cabbie parked nearby who ran over to help James out, but while he was distracted, he claims Higgins opened the taxi door and made a run for it.  

James said: “My mate came to see what was going on and I was trying to calm the situation down and explain who he was - but the next minute he was out the car and bolting down the street back towards the town.”

The furious driver then went inside Higgins’ hotel and left a note with the Hilton receptionist to demand payment for the cab ride. He said: “I told her to get Higgins to phone me as soon as he got up the next morning. But off course, I have heard nothing from him since.”

John Higgins is one of the most successful players in the history of the sport
 

James also claims he was contacted by Higgins’ manager on Thursday, who offered to ‘sort him out’ with the cash for the unpaid cab fare.

Speaking yesterday he said: “His manager has asked me to meet him at the Merchant Hotel tonight to discuss it. He asked me how much John was due me and said he would sort me out.”

John Higgins is one of the most successful players in the history of the sport.

Since turning professional in 1992, he has won 30 ranking titles, including four World Championships and three UK Championships, as well as two Masters titles.

The Daily Record have contacted the number which James had for Higgins’ manager but there was no answer last night and no response to a message left on a voicemail.

We were unable to trace Higgins last night.

The Record also contacted the Hilton hotel and the venue where the snooker event took place but noone was able to discuss it with us.