Taxi driver Jacob Humphreys, 65, was yesterday (Mon) found guilty by the Western Cape High Court on 10 counts of murder and 4 of attempted murder for driving a minibus full of schoolchildren in front of a train.
Humphreys was behind the wheel of the minibus that overtook several vehicles and ignored lowered booms at the Buttskop Level Crossing in Blackheath, putting the vehicle into the path of an oncoming train on August 25, 2010.
Humphreys showed little emotion as Judge Robert Henney pronounced judgment and told him he was responsible for ending the lives of 10 schoolchildren who died in the accident, but the gallery was filled with cheers amidst sobs.
Henney told Humphreys his bail was withdrawn and he was taken into custody ahead of sentencing to take place at a date yet to be determined.
Vanique Skippers, cousin of deceased 16-year-old Nadine Marthinissen, said: “I am glad justice has been served, although finding Humphries guilty would not bring Nadine back again.”
“We are glad this day has come and we are expecting that the judge will send him (Humphreys) to jail for a long time,” she said, adding that “my cousin will now rest in peace and the family finally have closure.”
Mother of 16-year-old Jody Phillips who also died in the crash, Valerie Phillips, said the family felt relieved there was “justice for our children”.
“This has been a very difficult time for the families,” she said.
NPA provincial spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the NPA was “happy” that a conviction had been secured.
“We hope the families will now find closure and move on with their lives.”
He said the conviction showed that motorists could be charged with murder rather than the lesser crime of culpable homicide.
The hearing came as the NPA takes a tougher stance against reckless drivers.
Less than two weeks ago, the NPA announced its decision to charge people responsible for fatal car accidents with murder instead of culpable homicide.
The authority’s reasoning is that if it can be proved that a motorist foresaw the possibility of an accident, but took the risk anyway, there is a form of intention to cause death.
Provincial Transport Minister Robin Carlisle also hailed the judgment as “a victory for justice and for road safety”.
“The National Prosecuting Authority must take full credit for having the courage and determination to forge ahead with murder charges.
“Increasingly we are seeing the NPA take a firmer line with those who kill and maim on the roads,” said Carlisle.
“We need these brutal, unrepentant killer drivers to be thrown behind bars for lengthy periods, or we will never have safe roads.” — Sandiso Phaliso