Closing statements heard in Tenerife trial

Wednesday 06 March 2013 22.21
Darren Sapstead read a prepared statement to the court
Darren Sapstead read a prepared statement to the court

Closing statements have been heard in the trial of an Englishman charged with the murder of Irish tourist Garry Walton in Tenerife over 16 years ago.

State prosecutor Deborah Padilla made an impassioned plea to the jury to return a guilty verdict and "end the heartbreak" of the 21-year-old Co Waterford man's family.

Mr Walton's parents Robert and Catherine were in court along with other family members to hear the final summing up by the prosecution and the defence.

Ms Padilla told the jury that on practically the first day in her job in 2007, she received a letter from Mr and Mrs Walton informing her that they had been forced to pull out of their private prosecution against Darren Sapstead for financial reasons.

"In their letter they said that they were now placing their trust in me to continue the case on their behalf.

"You have heard from the defendant how this long case has affected him, his family and his work.

"However, remember also that Garry was deprived of the chance to marry and have children. The lives of his parents and other family have been ruined since the day his life was taken", she said.

Ms Padilla asked the jury to bear in mind that the defence had deliberately shown the "best face" of the defendant during the trial.

She said she had intended for the jury to hear from two key witnesses from Ireland, brothers Michael and Jeremiah Collins, but had been prevented from doing so for reasons beyond her control.

"Michael Collins has since died. His brother does not have a passport at present and I was informed today that the Spanish authorities would not allow him to enter the country without one," she said.

In a 30-minute speech, the prosecutor urged the jury to believe the evidence of two Manchester sisters, Katie and Lucy Smethurst, whose decision to "come forward with the truth" ten months after Mr Walton's death led the case to be reopened.

It was originally considered to be an accidental death by police.

Katie Smethurst told the court yesterday that she had seen Mr Stapstead grab a very drunk Mr Walton by the legs and throw him over the rail of the boat, but had kept silent for almost a year due to fear.

"Incriminating the defendant has brought them nothing but problems. If they had remained silent the whole thing would have simply gone away. But they chose not to. Remorse did not let Katie sleep at nights", Ms Padilla said

Defence lawyer Carlos Valenciano expressed his "deep regret" that Mr Walton had died but said that there was "not even a shred of evidence that he was pushed overboard, let alone that my client did it".

"In fact, Darren Sapstead was the only one who tried to help him by throwing him a lifebelt. He also wanted to jump in to save the drowning man but was stopped from doing so by Katie and the boat crew."

Mr Walton's family later reacted angrily as they listened from the public gallery to the defendant as he read out a prepared statement to the court in which described himself as "honest, friendly and good with people".

"I have never been in trouble with the police before or after this incident. These have been sad times for the Waltons and for my own family for the last 17 years. At no point have I ever changed my statement. I always tried to help Garry.

"Katie and Lucy have lied to police, firstly in Las Américas, then to a judge in Granadilla and finally to police in England. Now they would like us to believe their new story," he said.

"I have lost 17 years of my life, as have the Waltons. I lost my business in 2005 while I was in prison. I was in five different prisons in Spain before being sent by boat to Tenerife.

"At no point in my life have I hurt or done anything to hurt anyone. I am here now hoping for justice. I swear on my family's life I did not touch or harm Garry Walton that sad day, I was trying to help him", he said.

The jury begins its deliberations tomorrow.