Parents despair at speedboat tot death trial
PUBLISHED: 18:51 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:47 16 August 2010
PARENTS of a toddler killed when he was hit by a speedboat as he slept on a beach have been forced to give up their six-year campaign for justice. Andrea and Paul Gallagher from Orpington were heartbroken when three men accused of their son s manslaughte
PARENTS of a toddler killed when he was hit by a speedboat as he slept on a beach have been forced to give up their six-year campaign for justice.
Andrea and Paul Gallagher from Orpington were heartbroken when three men accused of their son's manslaughter were cleared at a Bahamian court last Tuesday.
The couple have fought for six years and spent £50,000 of their life savings to get justice for two-year-old Paul after he died of horrific head injuries when a speedboat crashed into the beach where he was sleeping in August 2002.
However, after Judge Elliot Lockhart dismissed the case against boat driver James Bain and company owners Clifford Nottage and Evangeless Williamson, the couple were foced to give up their fight when they were told they had no right to appeal.
When Judge Lockhart cleared the trio, despite evidence that the boat that killed their son was unlicensed with no insurance, Mrs Gallagher, 41, wept and a furious Mr Gallagher had to be ushered from the building as he shouted at the defendants.
Mrs Gallagher said: "It was like a physical blow.
"I was stunned. I started shaking and collapsed to the floor, crying. The last bit of strength I had mustered up to enable me to come to the courtroom, to face them, was knocked out. I literally had no energy left to hold myself up.
"We thought it was an open and shut case. We wanted justice, but also to make the beaches of the Bahamas safer for other holidaymakers.
"Now the judge has given out a firm message - you can break Bahamian law and get away with it."
Mr Gallagher, 43, added: "We didn't expect it at all.
"Even though I thought throughout that the judge seemed more sympathetic to the defence, we still thought the ultimate decision would be in the hands of the jury.
"Even if the jury had decided against us, we would have been able to accept it. But by ruling that there was no case to answer, the judge took that away from us.
"Now it is almost as though we have had no trial. We feel as if we have been through all this for nothing."
The court heard that Mr Bain had been towing an inflatable banana boat when a wave hit his speedboat, knocking several people into the water.
His defence counsel, Henry Bostwick, said Bain was trying to help a woman panicking in the water when a second wave hit the boat and he slipped.
He became tangled in ropes and was unable to stop the boat heading at full speed towards the Atlantis Resort beach, where it struck the child as he slept on a sun lounger.
Mr Bostwick said: "It cannot be said that in trying to assist a trapped woman while he was in the area designated for water sports there was an obvious risk to a person on the beach."
Mrs Gallagher said their latest visit to the Bahamas has brought back memories of the horrific accident.
She said: "As we got off the plane, memories of that holiday came flooding back to me - little Paul digging in the sand, then, after the boat hit, our baby lying on the beach with a big chunk of his skull missing - the sand red with his blood.
"I certainly never want to set foot on that island again. But I do think our fight has been worthwhile. We may not have got the verdict we wanted, but we have achieved a hell of a lot.
"Since Paul died, new water safety laws have been brought in to make the Bahamas safer. Now we can only pray the new laws are upheld and no family will ever have to suffer the way we have.
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