A British dad-of-two has been cleared of pushing a Leeds-born tourist to his death during a Tenerife pleasure boat cruise nearly 17 years ago.
Spanish jury members yesterday (March 7) acquitted Darren Sapstead of any involvement in 21-year-old Garry Walton’s drowning in November 1996 after five hours of deliberations.
The decision marked the end of a long fight by Mr Sapstead, from Essex, to clear his name.
He clapped his hands and shouted ‘Yes’ as his defence lawyer mouthed ‘You’re not guilty’ in English seconds after the jury spokeswoman announced the unanimous 9-0 verdict in Spanish.
Mr Walton’s builder dad Robert, 60, originally from Leeds but now living in Ireland, buried his head in his hands as the result was announced.
His wife Catherine, 59, stared silently ahead with tears in her eyes.
Mr Sapstead, 38, was extradited to Spain in 2005 and remanded in jail for eight months before being released and allowed to return to Britain on bail ahead of his three-day trial.
He said: “Justice has been served at the end of the day. The feeling I have is indescribable.
“I feel sorry for Garry’s family and I can understand why they’re angry. But they’re blaming the wrong person. I don’t know who if anyone killed their son but it wasn’t me.”
Mr Walton’s dad Robert said last night: “We are obviously devastated but we will live with this. All we ever wanted was a trial and we got that. A guilty verdict wouldn’t have brought back our dear son.”
Apprentice builder Mr Walton drowned after falling from a boat off the resort of Playa de Las Americas.
Mr Sapstead was one of the 45 or so people on board the boat. Mr Walton’s death was initially treated as an accident by Spanish investigators.