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Durban - The lawyer acting for pensioner Robert Gilmore, charged with murder in connection with the death of a toddler in a motor vehicle accident, on Wednesday likened his case to that of Fields Hill truck driver Sanele May, questioning why the latter was only facing charges of culpable homicide.
He said that even Bashan Naicker – dubbed the “Bridge lawyer”, who caused an accident on Athlone Bridge, killing three people – had only been convicted of culpable homicide.
“My client is not a monster... his case is emotionally charged because a small boy died,” said attorney Narem Narotem during argument before Durban Regional Court magistrate Phumi Shoba.
Gilmore pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder, reckless and drunk-driving charges that related to the accident in Amanzimtoti on August 2012 in which William Ratcliffe, 3, died.
His mother, Suzette, testified that Gilmore had turned right in front of her at an intersection and she had no choice but to hit his beach buggy.
William was in the front passenger seat when the airbag was set off.
Gilmore’s version was that he entered the intersection, saw Ratcliffe’s car some distance away and had turned, but had had to stop for pedestrians. He alleged Ratcliffe had been going much faster than the 50km/h she claimed.
He admitted to having drunk two quarts of beer, but denied being drunk and said he had left the scene to call his wife only when people starting calling him a murderer.
Prosecutor Barend Groen on Wednesday asked the magistrate to convict Gilmore on all charges, saying his version of how the accident had occurred had to be rejected.
He said Gilmore had admitted under cross-examination that if the State’s version was found to be true, then he was reckless and he would have foreseen the possibility that someone could have been killed.
Also, witnesses said that Gilmore had been drunk, and a blood sample taken more than two hours later showed that he was three times over the legal limit. That the child was in the front seat of the car had nothing to do with a criminal conviction, Groen said.
But Narotem said that the recent Supreme Court of Appeal case of Western Cape taxi driver Jacob Humpreys – whose 10 convictions for murder were replaced with culpable homicide and sentence reduced from 20 to eight years – “defined these cases” and that Gilmore should have been charged with culpable homicide.
Even then he should be acquitted because Gilmore had believed he had enough time to turn. Gilmore should also be acquitted of driving under the influence because, while he conceded having drunk two quarts of beer, there was no evidence that this had affected his driving.
“He is 63. He is on epilepsy medication. He had just been involved in an accident. His dazed, blank look and unsteadiness could be attributed to this,” Narotem said.
Judgment will be handed down next month.