A man from Essex who’s been cleared of killing a tourist who drowned in Tenerife has told ITV News Anglia that he tried to save the man’s life.
Irish tourist Garry Walton was 21 when he was found overboard from a booze cruise off Playa de las Americas in November 1996. Darren Sapstead was on the same cruise with a friend and says he tried to save Garry.
– Darren Sapstead
“There was a big commotion on the boat. The boat was the size of a boat that goes up and down the Thames with 80 people on board. Everyone went to one side of the boat so I travelled to that side and saw someone in the water so I decided I was going to go in the water to go after the guy. The guy on the boat then said ‘no, you’re not to go into the water because he didn’t want another tragedy on his hands so I found a life ring and threw it as far as I could to get it to him but it obviously didn’t reach him.”
Darren Sapstead from South Woodham Ferrers in Essex was acquitted by a jury at Santa Cruz in Tenerife last week. He told ITV News how it felt when the not guilty verdict was read.
“I’ve never had that feeling in my life before; my body went into shock and didn’t know how to deal with it to be honest. And it wasn’t until I got outside that I could breathe.”
Mr Sapstead had waited 17 years for the case to come to trial. He was extradited to Spain in 2005 and spent 8 months in jail in five different Spanish jails.
“No one knew where I was. They put me in a prison in Madrid and then 5 different prisons until I got to Cadiz which is the most terrible place in the whole of this planet, you don’t want to go there. And then they took me by boat to Tenerife which is a three day journey by boat in a holding cell so that wasn’t very nice either… and then I was in Tenerife prison until they got me into court to do my statement again.”
Mr Sapstead told ITV News Anglia that his business collapsed as a result of the case.
“I got bail but I was bailed to the island for the rest of the year so I had to live on Tenerife and wasn’t able to come back. So all my business I had at the time, I had a big bathroom showroom in Eastwood I lost the whole lot because I couldn’t be there so I lost that business. And then I was able to return and try and build my life again.”
Mr Sapstead says the case had a big impact on his life. Now he’s looking forward to a family holiday.
– DARREN SAPSTEAD
“Every year you think it’s going to end and it doesn’t, it just goes onto year after year and you can’t plan your life, you can’t plan your holidays, you can’t even move your house. We’re living in a small three bedroom house when we need to live in a four bedroom house but we couldn’t upgrade because we didn’t know what was going on.”