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Cape Town - Nearly a year after Milnerton High head boy Jake Wootton was killed when a motorist drove into him and his friends as they walked alongside the road in Hermanus, the driver will be charged with culpable homicide.
But it’s too little too late for the devastated family of the 18-year-old, whose body was catapulted about 20m into the air by the force of the impact. He died from severe head injuries the following day.
“I would like to see the driver charged with murdering my son, and with seven counts of attempted murder,” Jake’s father, Stephen Wootton, told Weekend Argus
“A charge of culpable homicide cannot be justified considering the severity of what happened. We don’t want the State to start the case with a mere culpable homicide charge.”
The crash happened on April 6, 2012, Easter Friday, and although questions were raised at the time about whether the driver was drunk, police spokesman Colonel Andre Traut said on Friday that a drunk driving charge against the driver would not be pursued.
Traut said the driver, 24, was “about to be charged with culpable homicide”.
He would be arrested and would appear in the Hermanus Magistrate’s Court soon.
Police failed to conduct a blood-alcohol test on the driver after the crash, despite numerous statements from witnesses who said he appeared to be drunk.
This week, Wootton said he was “bitterly disappointed” at the quality of the police investigation.
And Transport MEC Robin Carlisle has gone so far as to suggest the possibility of a police “cover-up”.
Carlisle called the handling of the case “scandalous” and said he was concerned that the police’s oversights and shortcomings on the night of the crash might have weakened the case against the driver.
“I am now concerned that we are dealing with a police cover-up, as opposed to a case of police inefficiency,” he said.
Carlisle also questioned whether affidavits had been taken from the many eyewitnesses, and whether these included evidence about the driver possibly being drunk.
Wootton, who said he had been told that the driver would appear in court on February 20, alleged that there were several indications that the driver may have intentionally hit his son and his friends, in an attempt to scare or hurt them.
“But the investigation is incomplete and needs to be done properly before charges are put to the accused.
“It feels as if we’re going around in circles. They don’t have any forensics or an accident report yet,” he said.
Wootton added that several witnesses had yet to be interviewed, “including a woman who was in my son’s company at Barney’s bar shortly before he left the bar”.
“A picture was taken of Jake and this woman at 11.21pm. The crash happened at 11.40, just a few minutes after my son left the bar. What also bothers me a lot is that the driver and my son were both in the pub at the same time shortly before the incident,” he said.
Jake excelled academically and was
also a keen scuba diver, bodyboarder and rugby player.
He died in hospital on April 7, a day after the crash.
Traut said police were still investigating the death, and were awaiting a report on the reconstruction of the accident.
Weekend Argus has confirmed that an independent investigator, Johan Joubert, has been tasked with compiling a traffic accident reconstruction report.
Meanwhile, Stephen Wootton’s friend, Tony McLaughlin, who is helping him investigate, charged that the police had not secured video footage taken at the club in question soon before the incident.
We’re seeking justice for Jake, and charging the accused with culpable homicide alone will not be fair,” said
McLaughlin, who compiled a report on his provisional findings, which he sent to Carlisle.
On Friday, Wootton told Weekend Argus that officials from the National Prosecuting Authority and the police had told him that the driver was a police officer. But this was denied by Traut.
Carlisle’s department has been vocal in its criticism of Hermanus police’s handling of events on the night of the accident, as well as the subsequent investigation.
At the time of Jake’s memorial service last April, Carlisle’s colleague Hector Eliott said police inefficiency in responding to accidents was widespread in the Western Cape.
“The case of Jake Wootton is a tragedy. It is, however, indicative of a far wider-ranging problem with SAPS’s capacity to respond timeously, effectively and thoroughly with road crashes.
“It is a strong contributor to the culture of lawlessness that prevails on our roads,” Elliot said at the time. - Sunday Argus