Trio 'not guilty' over toddler speedboat death

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The Independent US

A judge in the trial of three men accused of killing a British toddler who was hit by a speed boat on a beach in the Bahamas today ordered a jury to return not guilty verdicts at the Bahamian Supreme Court.

The little boy's mother Andrea Gallagher broke down in tears at the back of the court as the judge gave his ruling in the absence of the jury.

Her husband, Paul, 43, stood up and moved towards the raised wooden dock at the centre of the court.

"Why don't you tell them the truth?" he shouted at Bain, "you know what you caused it.

"How about you Mr Nottage? You know what happened."

The distraught parents left the court house and did not return 40 minutes later as the jury was officially ordered to acquit the three defendants of all charges.

Outside court, in the hot afternoon sun, Paul had to be held back by Andrea's brother John McGuckion as he lunged towards the three men.

Both the toddler's father and uncle then started shouting at the boat's driver and its owners as they were moved away by court officials.

The British High Commissioner also helped separate the boy's family from the defendants.

The young boy's mother left in tears, but did not confront the defendants.

Bain, 30, Nottage, 54, and Williamson, 66, were charged following a long campaign for justice by the two-year-old's family.

An inquest in the Bahamas in June 2003 recorded an accidental death, but a British coroner recorded an open verdict at a second inquest the following year and the young boy's parents pleaded with him to order further investigations.

Bromley coroner Dr Roy Palmer's verdict that there were "real doubts" over the incident, coupled with the findings of a subsequent investigation by the Metropolitan Police, led to the criminal trial almost six years after "little Paul's" death.

Last week, Mrs Gallagher, 41, of Orpington, Kent, wept as she told the jury of six women and three men how she first saw the horrific injuries which led to her young son's death.

"I could see his head, his head was split open and there was a big chunk of his skull missing," she said.

"I could see into my own child's brain on the beach."

Losing control of her emotions, Mrs Gallagher pointed to the three men accused of killing her son who were sat in the wooden dock at the centre of the court.

"It was their boat and they drove it," she said.

Waving an enlarged colour photograph of her son, she added: "They owned it and they killed my child. I'm sorry, but that's what happened."

The court heard she had campaigned relentlessly with her husband Paul, 43, to achieve justice for their son, even involving then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But Mrs Gallagher also admitted the couple demanded three million dollars (£1.5m) from boat owner Nottage as compensation over the incident.

Crying, and frequently mumbling her words, Mrs Gallagher said: "It was wrong, we were depressed, we were in treatment, we lost our business, we lost everything and our son.

"We were in a desperate situation and we were just thinking of our other two children."

The couple's email read: "We believe that a just figure of three million dollars from you will allow us to pick up the pieces and try to move on."

The court heard Bain was pulling a banana boat with the 19ft 200-horsepower speedboat when it was hit by a wave, knocking several people into the water.

As Bain, who did not have a master's licence, went to the rear of the unregistered boat to help them, leaving the engine running, his foot became tangled in a rope and the speedboat headed towards the beach at "full throttle".