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‘You had a choice, but you became a killer’ – Parents want prison for driver who killed son

‘You had a choice, but you became a killer’ – Parents want prison for driver who killed son
The family of Swedish volunteer Aksel Otterbeck hold placards outside the Cape Town regional court on Monday, 12 February 2024. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

Darryl Futter was convicted of culpable homicide in the 2016 death of Swedish volunteer Aksel Otterbeck, whose distraught parents want Futter to serve time behind bars 

After more than three hours of giving heart-wrenching testimony, the parents of Swedish volunteer Aksel Otterbeck (19), who was killed when he was hit by a car in Table View on 14 December 2016, finally heard the words they’ve been waiting over seven years to hear.

Aksel’s convicted killer, Darryl Futter, walked up to Maria and Jesper Otterbeck in the Cape Town regional court and said: “I’m sorry.”

Emotional scenes played out in court on Monday, 12 February, when the Otterbecks gave evidence in aggravation of sentence. They want Futter to go to prison for Aksel’s death.

On the day he died, Aksel and a group of about 10 NGO volunteers from different countries were walking down Arum Road in Table View. They were on their way to a café on the beachfront when a car crashed into them.

Aksel died on the pavement while paramedics tried in vain to save him. The postmortem showed that every bone in his body had been shattered. Another six volunteers were injured.

An Israeli citizen, Meshi Yehudai, was in a coma after the incident and was later flown home. Because of her deteriorating health, the State did not call her as a witness.

Darryl Futter outside the Cape Town regional court after his court appearance on 12 February 2024. (Photo: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Die Burger)

Forever changed

Maria Otterbeck, a writer who had published several books and wrote scripts for television shows, explained how the trauma and depression she experienced as a result of her son’s death caused her to lose her job.

Both she and Jesper sobbed and shook as they read their statements, and the proceedings were adjourned twice for 10 minutes to allow them to regain their composure. Their daughters, Emily and Ella, and supporters of the family shed tears inside the court.

Maria’s hands trembled as she read her statement. “In the seven years since his death, this statement is the first thing that I have written. So, your Honour, I lost my occupation, an occupation I loved and had worked very hard to obtain. I had a full, rewarding and exciting life, but it is all gone.

“Of course, this has affected my other abilities too. I used to be very sociable. After December 14, 2016, I’m not. I’m mostly alone when I’m not with my daughters. I have a very hard time doing small talk and my depression prevents me from making friends. So, the impact of Futter’s actions on my life have been enormous. From a full, rewarding life into, well, something very different,” she said.

Reminiscing about Aksel, she mentioned that he had been a good guitarist as well as a great cook. He was extremely intelligent, creating formulas in physics and maths, and he aspired to be a Nobel prize-winner one day.

In a stern message, she told Futter: “You deprived us of him and created a crater in us all. I will never forgive you. You had a choice. You had a choice and yet you drove. That is what you have to live with. You had a choice. And that choice changed the world for so many, many people. You became a killer.”

Damaged inside

“My life changed forever on the morning of 15 December 2016 when Maria called me,” Jesper testified. “I could not, would not believe what I heard. Then my body went into shock and over a course of a few hours it basically emptied itself.

“I could not eat, barely talk and it was like someone had hit me over the head with a large sledgehammer, except that the damage was on the inside,” the father said.

The court also heard that Jesper had been seeing a psychiatrist to help him to cope with his pain and suffering.

“The seven years of pain and sleep deprivation for me are only a fraction of the enormous negative impact you have had, Mr Futter.

“In addition to sleep deprivation, there are countless hours of crying, despair and psychological suffering during these years,” he said.

Both parents made a passionate plea to Magistrate Mbuso Msingapantsi to sentence Futter to time in prison.

Darryl Futter walks past Aksel Otterbeck’s father, Jesper, ahead of Futter’s sentencing hearing in the Cape Town regional court on 12 February. Otterbeck testified that he had experienced years of despair and psychological suffering after his son’s death.(Photo: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Die Burger)

Drunk driving charge

Aksel’s fellow volunteers who testified during the trial said Futter had been speeding when he slammed into the group. He was initially charged with culpable homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol and reckless and negligent driving. He pleaded innocent on all charges. On 15 May 2023 he was convicted of culpable homicide and negligent driving.

In Msingapantsi’s judgment, he said Futter had testified that he had not been driving at a high speed. He had seen a group of people in front of him, flashed the car’s lights and hooted to warn them.

Msingapantsi found that there was an element of impatience on Futter’s part and his conduct did not measure up to the required standard as expected of a reasonable driver. He ruled it could not be concluded on the evidence presented before the court that Futter indeed had driven his vehicle under the influence of liquor.

Deep disappointment

Caro Smit, founder and director of the nonprofit South Africans Against Drunk Driving, protested outside the court every time Futter made an appearance. She was extremely disappointed that he had not been convicted on the count of drunk driving.

“I’m of the view that the magistrate did not apply himself correctly,” she said, adding that there were three witnesses who testified that Futter had been intoxicated.

“I came out of the court case spitting. The problem is people don’t see drunk driving as a serious crime.”

Further arguments from both the State and the defence will be heard on 24 April, after which the court will set a sentencing date.

Aksel’s parents won’t attend but will return to South Africa when the sentence is handed down on a date to be determined by the court. DM

Darryl Futter walks past family, friends and supporters of Aksel Otterbeck outside the Cape Town regional court ahead of Futter’s sentencing hearing on 12 February 2024. (Photo: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Die Burger)

Guide to the law

Drunk driving in South Africa is causing a nightmare for the authorities. During December 2023, more than 4,160 motorists were arrested.

Section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act sets the legal limit on blood alcohol content for drivers at 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. For a breathalyser test, the concentration of alcohol must be less than 0.24 milligrams of alcohol per 1,000 millilitres of breath.

Two drinks in the space of one hour will put you over the limit.

Drunk driving laws

Any person driving on South African roads should be familiar with the drunk driving laws. Here’s a summary:

No person on a public road shall occupy the driver’s seat of a ­motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

No person on a public road shall occupy the driver’s seat of a motor ­vehicle, the engine of which is running, while the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from his or her body is not less than 0.05g per 100ml.

The two-hour rule: if in any prosecution it is proved that the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from the person concerned was not less than 0.05g per 100ml at any time within two hours after the alleged offence, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that such concentration was not less than 0.05g per 100ml of blood at the time of the alleged offence. 

Implications of being caught drunk driving

If you’re found guilty of drunk driving, you could face up to six years in jail. You could also be liable for fines of up to R120,000 and your driver’s licence may be suspended. You will also have a criminal record. The worst-case scenario is that you kill someone else on the road, your loved ones or yourself. DM

This article first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick newspaper, DM168, which is available countrywide for R29.

 

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ron McGregor says:

    Umm, pardon my asking. But is this supposed to be a factual report on a tragedy, where the behaviour of an arrogant driver with an attitude caused the death of a beloved son? Or was this article published in order to provide a platform for the Ooms and Tannies of the anti-alcohol brigade?

    • P B M .. says:

      It is obviously a factual report, Mr McGregor. Your insensitive suggestion that the article is anything but that, indicates that you have been charged with a DUI offence in the past, hence your inappropriate “Ooms and Tannies” comment.

      • Georg Scharf Scharf says:

        If Mr McGrogor had the doubtful privilege to have worked in an emergency setting of a hospital over weekends and New Year, he would have loathed people that did not stop drinking and driving. Thus I also don’t find the reference to the Ooms en Tannies appropriate in this context. At least Ooms en Tannies seldom kill somebody under influence of alcohol. Then there are also Ooms and Tannies that are alcoholics. But then you get such people every place, and nation. Every civilized person should never be driving under the influence of alcohol. (But OK, as a youngster I had my bouts of binging, but always good sober friends who would take me home). I have Irish and German grandparents, and yes they could drink, especially after the World Wars they were in. But always at home. Never driving. McGregor is Irish? Scottish? Do you have Ooms en Tannies? Or perhaps snobbish Uncles and Aunts? Or have you a grudge against Afrikaans people that you have to express yourself like that. (I attended Afrikaans schools, you can take it all out on me).

  • Bob Dubery says:

    “He had seen a group of people in front of him, flashed the car’s lights and hooted to warn them.” I’m sure he did. But did he slow down? South African driver attitudes towards pedestrians are shocking. Too many of them just don’t get that when a person is in the path of your vehicle you should reduce speed and prepare to take evasive action. I am a pedestrian as part of my commute. Stop streets count for nothing (and I am not just talking about taxi drivers here). Four way stops are a gain of chance. A robot where you have the green man to give you right of way is a similar gamble. I remember getting knocked by a driver when I was about 2 meters away from completing a legal crossing. I got abused because this poor person’s motor had stalled and, of course, this was all my fault. I remember crossing Bram Fishcer driver in Randburg, with the lights in my favour, looking right and seeing a car hurtle to me whilst the driver held a cell phone in one hand and a packet of fries in the other.

    Put aside the suggestion that this driver was drunk. There seems to be insufficient evidence to support that. This is an all too common piece of South African driving: Blow your horn, flash your lights, keep your foot down, and hold your path, because what are they doing in the road anyway.

    • virginia crawford says:

      Many drivers do not respect pedestrians’ rights at all. When there is load shedding, it is nerve wracking crossing Barry Hertzog, but taxis often stop. As for all the people who ignore the 4-way stop on Muirfield and Mowbray, when something bad happens to you, you deserve it. This stop is near a primary school!

  • virginia crawford says:

    Please publish the average sentences of those sentenced for drunk driving. Has anyone ever got 6 years? I dohbt it. Everyone reading this knows at least one person killed or maimed in a car accident, and yet it is tolerated socially and legally.

  • I was one of the volunteers who was hit by Darryl Futter’s car. It’s shocking that he is pleading innocent to the charges against him, as he was clearly intoxicated that night. The bouncer at the bar he had been drinking at had kicked him out because he was so drunk. This shows that he was not just drunk, but completely wasted. He didn’t slow down or blink his lights. What he did do was drive over 80 kilometres an hour in a residential area. He hit the sidewalk on the right side of the road, causing him to swerve onto our side and collide with us. We were walking on the grass beside the street, not on the road itself. His entire testimony is one big lie. It’s been seven years, and there has been no justice for Aksel, his family, Meshi, myself, and the other volunteers. Aksel was a young, ambitious, and beautiful soul who had come to Futter’s country to help the less fortunate. Instead of thanking him, Futter took his life. Futter has not contributed anything to South Africa other than showing how flawed the legal system is. In the 19 years that Aksel had, he did more than Futter ever will. It’s unbelievable that Futter was caught red-handed at the crime scene yet is getting away with taking a life. It’s worth noting that Futter lived just a 10-minute walk away from the bar where he got drunk, was kicked out of, and drove off from. The choices he made that night have had a devastating impact on many lives, including my own. He should be held accountable and serve jail time. It makes me both indescribably angry and sad that, after SEVEN years, there has been no justice, no closure, no resolution. Just more pain, sadness and anger.

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