Sunday 25 February 2018

Parents' anger at 16-year wait for trial of man accused of killing son

Karl McLaughlin Tenerife

THE parents of a young Irishman who died in Tenerife over 16 years ago have criticised the delay in bringing the man charged with killing him to court.

At first it was believed Garry Walton (21), from Tooraneena, Co Waterford, accidentally drowned on November 7, 1996, but yesterday was the first day of the trial of Essex businessman Darren Sapstead, who is charged with killing him.

Garry's parents, Robert and Catherine Walton, who flew into Tenerife early yesterday, were visibly emotional and held hands throughout the opening session in the island's capital Santa Cruz.

"We are not expecting anything from this trial but we felt we had to be here for our Garry. We are very angry that key witnesses who know what happened that day have not been called to appear," Mr Walton said.

Garry died after he was allegedly pushed overboard during a "booze cruise" in the resort of Playa de Las Americas.

After interviewing British and Irish tourists on board the 'Albatros' pleasure boat, Spanish police were satisfied that no foul play had been involved.

However, a court later ordered the investigation to be reopened after Katie Smethurst, one of the passengers, changed her version of events and told British police that Garry, who had been drinking heavily throughout the day at sea, had been shoved into the water by Mr Sapstead.

According to the prosecution, Mr Sapstead, now 38 and the father of two children, "grabbed Mr Walton without warning by the legs and threw him over the side of the boat into the water".

The family's former lawyer, Pedro Ripol, who retired from practice in 2007 but is accompanying the Waltons throughout the week in court, revealed that the case against Mr Sapstead was dropped three times in the late 1990s and was only taken forward after a change of prosecutor in Tenerife.

During the first day of evidence, Mr Sapstead denied any involvement in the death of Mr Walton. He said he only realised someone had fallen overboard when he heard the commotion in another part of the boat.

Today the court will hear evidence from Ms Smethurst and her sister Lucy, who are from Manchester and are the centre of the prosecution's case.

Irish Independent

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