Cape Town – Taxi driver Jacob Humphreys was found guilty on Monday of murdering 10 schoolchildren who were killed when his minibus was hit by a train at a level crossing at Blackheath outside Cape Town last year.
Western Cape High Court Judge Robert Henney found Humphreys, 55, guilty on 10 charges of murder and four of attempted murder.
Relatives of the children who had packed into the public gallery gasped as Henney delivered the verdict. Some burst into tears and sobbed.
Humphreys remained expressionless and kept his hands clasped in front of him.
He faced 10 charges of murder, or alternatively manslaughter, as well as four of attempted murder, or assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
‘No other conclusion’
Humphreys was transporting children to school in a taxi on August 25 last year when he overtook a row of cars and ignored safety signals at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath.
A train hit the taxi and 10 of the children died.
Henney said he not could think of a better example of a person being able to foresee the consequences of their actions when he shot through the level crossing.
“What other conclusion could a person reach?”
Outside court relatives of Liesl August, 11, Cody Erasmus, 15, Jody Phillips, 13, Reece Smith, 7; Nolan February, 13, Michaelin de Koker, 11, Jason Pedro, 14, Nadine Marthinissen, 16, Jeane-Pierre Willeman, 13, and Jade Adams, 10, cried and embraced each other.
“I am happy that justice has been done,” said Vanique Skippos, a relative of Marthinissen.
On Friday prosecutor Susan Galloway told the court that Humphreys could have foreseen the consequences of skipping through a closed train level crossing.
She said she would show Humphreys had subjectively foreseen the possibility of his act causing death and was therefore insensitively reckless.
Strange loss of memory
Defence lawyer Johann Engelbrecht said during the trial that Humphreys suffered from retrograde amnesia and could not remember anything from the time his taxi stood still at the Buttskop level crossing to the time he woke up and was taken to hospital.
Henney said it was strange that Humphreys remembered the moment just before the accident but nothing else.
He said if Humphreys’ vehicle had stood still behind another vehicle, it should have been that vehicle which was hit.
The judgment comes as the National Prosecuting Authority 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.
Humphreys will be sentenced in February next year.
I drove past the crash on the way to work that morning, last year. It truly was horrific…