KNYSNA NEWS - The Knysna Regional Court found Philip Bunge guilty on a charge of culpable homicide on Friday 20 April, following the death of Jared Lomas of Cape Town during the Oyster Festival in 2015.
Bunge sat slumped in the dock as the magistrate Marius Fourie read out the judgement, clutching his hands together and looking down. Just minutes after the judgement, his family members got up and left the courtroom.
'Consequences for actions'
The Lomas family and friends, on the other hand, were emotional and many of them fought back tears and embraced each other.
“I'm happy with the outcome,” said Lloyd Lomas, father of Jared. “I don't think it was intentional for Jared to die, but there are consequences for actions and I think the magistrate did a brilliant job – he covered all bases, and at the end of the day our family is very satisfied with the outcome.”
Lomas said he couldn't see Bunge getting off a free man, as all evidence pointed towards him, and that the magistrate agreed that Bunge's statement was inconsistent and "could be disregarded".
Fateful Oyster Festival night
The incident that led to the death of Lomas occurred during the early hours of 12 July 2015 following an altercation between Bunge and Lomas. Bunge said in his testimony that he was driving in Long Street when he noticed Lomas on the road and had to "swerve to avoid hitting him".
He braked, he said, reversed and confronted Lomas, and the situation escalated from there.
According to the prosecution, after the confrontation, Bunge held on to Lomas' collar as he drove away in his Colt bakkie and Lomas fell down. Bunge said it was the other way around, that Lomas held him by the collar.
A pathology report reveals Lomas' skull was crushed – probably as the bakkie drove over him, the prosecution said.
Philip Bunge will be sentenced on 11 June.
Prosecution's version holds water
The magistrate agreed with the prosecution's version of events.
“The witnesses are credible, there is consistency in their testimonies and they did not attempt to hide anything,” said Fourie, referring to two witnesses who were with Lomas at the time – his friend and his employer. “Their evidence supports each other with essential facts… It is clear truth and their testimony was satisfactory.”
The magistrate, however, questioned the testimony of another eyewitness, Angela Beatty, who was Bunge's friend at the time.
Friend's version 'unreliable'
“The value of her evidence is uncertain and is not the same as the accused version. She claims she was nervous and she was not prepared to confirm under oath who held who. The court finds the evidence of Ms Beatty as unreliable,” said Fourie.
He then touched on the accused's testimony, and started by saying that it was "improbable" that Bunge had to swerve to avoid hitting the deceased with his car.
“The accused got aggressive very easily. Even after realising that the deceased was intoxicated, the accused admits that he still wanted to make a point. He was clearly not the passive party," the magistrate said.
Bunge's version 'unlikely'
"It is not unlikely that he grabbed the deceased by the collar, as alleged by the state. It is also unlikely that the deceased would've grabbed the accused by the collar as the vehicle drove away. It would have been difficult and it is too long a distance,” said the magistrate.
“The driver, anchored in his seat, would have found it easier to retain a grip. It is highly probable that the accused would remain in first gear as he would not get an opportunity to change gear because both hands were not free.”
Magistrate Fourie added, “It is strange and peculiar that the accused did not know that the deceased fell down. It was not as dark as the middle of the jungle.”
He then said that Bunge's version is not true and should be disregarded, before he handed down judgement: “This court finds Bunge convicted of culpable homicide.”
Satisfied with the judgement: Chris Olivier (Lomas' brother), Lloyd Lomas (father) and Heinrich Painczyk (best friend). Photo: Yaseen Gaffar
No grudges, says father
Friends and family of Jared Lomas broke down during the judgement, and his former girlfriend, Retha Smit, was unable to contain her streaming tears. Lloyd told the Knysna-Plett Herald that neither Bunge nor of his family members acknowledged their presence or spoke a kind word.
“No one consoled us. We were right there, in their space, seated alongside them, but aside from the occasional glare, not one member of his family said anything to us. It's been a long road for everyone, and I understand if the lawyer asked them not to talk to us. But we were right there. I as a person must forgive, and it's not like I'm portraying myself to be holier than thou, but it would make a difference if someone said 'I'm sorry',” Lloyd said, reiterating that it was his son's legacy for the family not to be bitter and neither hold a grudge.
Sentencing in the case is set to take place on 11 June and Bunge was released on an extended warning.
Click here for previous articles:
- Oyster fest death: Bunge found guilty
- Update: Oyster Festival death
- Oyster Festival death: Judgement this week
- Oyster Festival death goes to trial
- Knysna resident on trial for Oyster Festival 'Murder'
- Oyster Festival murder: Court date postponed
- Oyster fest youth's accused killer in court
- Oyster Festival murder: Accused in court
- Oyster Festival murder: Still no answers
- Oyster Festival murder: Family wants answers
- Oyster Festival murder: Family wants justice
- Update: Man murdered during Oyster Festival
- Update: Tragic Oyster Festival murder
- Oyster Festival murder suspect released
- Man (22) murdered during Oyster Festival
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