Crash families reject driver’s ‘blood money’

2012-02-25 16:51

Jody Phillips died instantly on the way to school in a taxi ripped apart by an oncoming passenger train.

But two and a half years later, he lives on in his family’s Cape Town home.

He’s in the lounge where a shrine of flowers, cards and photographs is painstakingly restored every time it’s upset by a gust of wind coming through the front door.

He’s in the kitchen, where his sandwiches, a chocolate and a juice – recovered from the horrific crash wreckage – have been preserved in the freezer.

He’s also in his bedroom, which looks almost the same as it did on August 25 2010 when the 13-year-old boy grabbed his school bag and dashed out the front door for the very last time.

All his clothes and possessions, including his PlayStation and soccer games, remain the way he left them.

There are a few new additions, dotingly chosen by his mother, Valerie (46), during special shopping expeditions. The most noticeable is a brightly coloured bedspread bought last month. Jody would have loved the colours, she says.

There’s a strong sense that this is how the Phillips home will remain long after taxi driver Jacob Humphreys (56) is sentenced this week in the Western Cape High Court for the murder of the 10 children who died in his vehicle and the attempted murder of four who survived.

Humphreys was ferrying the children to school when he overtook a row of waiting cars and zigzagged through the closed booms at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath while a train was approaching.

He was convicted late last year.

There have been days when Valerie Phillips has wanted to kill herself. On others she hasn’t been able to leave her bed. She’s on medication for depression. She has anxiety attacks. Sometimes the pains in her chest are so severe she fights for breath.

She also feels guilty.

The weekend before the crash, Jody was rushed to hospital after being knocked unconscious while captaining his Under-14 school rugby team. He was later discharged in a neck brace and booked off school for a week.

“Jody stayed home the Monday,” recalls a tearful Valerie. “But on Tuesday he said, ‘Mommy, I’m feeling okay.

Can I go to school?’ I said it was fine with me because we were both worried about exams.”

Valerie was getting son Kaedy (5) ready for school when she heard Humphreys hoot.

“Every morning we kissed goodbye. That was our rule. He would kiss me, his daddy and his brother. We were a very close family. That was the first morning he didn’t kiss us goodbye. He just grabbed his bag and ran.”

It is clear that Humphreys’ actions on August 25 and beyond have wrecked entire families. Most of them are still too traumatised to speak about their pain.

Humphreys, who appears to be in deep denial, has not apologised or shown remorse for his actions.

This week, his victims’ families were infuriated when the defence’s presentencing report in mitigation of sentence suggested Humphreys serve a suspended sentence of five years.

The defence’s report recommended that Humphreys offer monetary compensation for medical expenses and schooling, take part in restorative justice and submit to correctional supervision.

Valerie rejects the idea.

“Even if he gives me a million rand, I don’t want it. That money will constantly remind me of what happened to my son. I don’t want a cent from him. I don’t want his blood money.”

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