Killer drunk pleads guilty

2013-10-23 00:00

THE thought of the man who caused the death of his wife and son in an alcohol-fuelled car crash walking off with a lighter sentence is just prolonging his family’s pain, said distraught dad Jason Bell.

Bell was speaking yesterday after Durban lawyer Koobashan Naicker’s guilty plea on three counts of culpable homicide, after the deaths of Gillian Bell, her eight-year-old son Connor, and dance teacher Carmen Hunter on Durban’s Athlone Bridge in March 2011.

Pleading guilty to culpable homicide means a lighter sentence and that means the man responsible for tearing apart his family would get off lightly, Bell said yesterday.

The dates for sentencing have been set down for January 30 and 31.

Bell told The Witness he had “no faith in our justice system” as the postponement allows Naicker to walk free for another three months. “I believe his plea will get him a lighter sentence and that is really difficult to overcome.

“Our family has been under a lot of emotional strain because we feel this case is not being dealt with in an appropriate manner. We are not able to gain closure and that is frustrating. I believe if the person making these decisions suffered the same fate as I did, only then would they understand how challenging this is.”

A month ago murder charges against Naicker were changed to culpable homicide. This was after the court was satisfied that his negligent actions, and not intent, led to the deaths.

Yesterday, Naicker pleaded guilty on these charges.

Advocate Nathi Ncube of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), said Naicker pleaded guilty to all eight counts against him — three counts of culpable homicide, four counts of negligent driving and exceeding the legal alcohol limit and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Ncube said: “A report was read out in court by Naicker’s lawyer, which stated that Naicker admitted to being under the influence of alcohol.”

Advocate Thandi Norman, a legal expert from Durban, said it was normal for such cases to take the form of culpable homicide if evidence can back it up.

“Murder is the intention to kill someone, whereas culpable homicide is due to negligence. In this case, it is clear to see that it was negligence on the part of Mr Naicker as he was under the influence,” said Norman.

“Prosecutors make the decision to change murder to culpable homicide if the evidence clearly points to negligence.”

Naicker had been granted bail in April 2011 after offering to give up his driving licence and promising not to get behind the wheel.

The inquiry was initiated after witnesses came forward claiming to have seen him driving. Naicker’s bail of R10 000 was forfeited.

A group of protestors gathered outside court yesterday to demand swift justice from the legal system.

South Africans against Drunk Driving’s (SADD) Charlotte Sullivan said the case has been going on for too long.

“We protested outside the court with the aim of bringing awareness to the court that justice needs to be served as quick as possible. This case has been going on for the past two-and-a-half years and it is putting a lot of strain on the families,” said Sullivan.

“We want drunk drivers who kill on the roads to be put behind bars and for them to receive appropriate sentencing.”

• The death of 10 schoolchildren on August 25, 2010 was due to a “reckless” driver who overtook several cars to get across a railway crossing in the Western Cape. Jacob Humphreys was initially convicted of murder and attempted murder but later appealed and the charge was amended to culpable homicide. He was then sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

• In an incident near Copesville, in Pietermaritzburg, 15 people were killed in a horror crash involving an overloaded taxi and a truck. The driver of the overloaded taxi that caused the accident faced 15 counts of murder and three of attempted murder, as well as reckless and negligent driving charges as he overtook in the face of oncoming traffic. He was convicted of culpable homicide.

• sonam.bhagwandas@witness.co.za

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