Bell Yard leads campaign for ex-serviceman facing prosecution in Peru

John Winskill served in the British Army for 11 years as an infantry officer in the Scottish Division, deployed worldwide until retirement in 2005.

Since then, John has been a passionate unpaid volunteer for service charities.

In 2012 he volunteered with a UK motorsport charity (Race2Recovery). The Charity’s aim was to help injured military veterans to take an active part in rally racing and be the first disabled team to complete the famous Dakar Rally Raid: a 9000km desert vehicle race across Peru, Argentina and Chile.

The Charity received tremendous financial support from the British public and businesses (such as McLaren and Jaguar LandRover JLR) plus a £100,000 donation from HRH Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Prince Harry (now Duke of Sussex) through the Endeavour Fund/The Royal Foundation. A main recipient of monies raised through donations was the Help for Heroes charity, whose logo adorned the rally vehicles and volunteers’ clothing, as well as for Personnel Recovery Centre at Tedworth House,

On 9 Jan 2013 and after the day’s racing had concluded, three of the team’s Land Rover support vehicles were towing one of the race cars and moving South in a controlled convoy on public roads, heading to their next overnight stop. During this road move, and at about 9.30pm, the logistics support Land Rover Defender, that John was driving, was involved in a head-on collision with a local Peruvian taxi. Tragically the driver and a passenger in the taxi were killed in the collision, four South American nationals were injured and John and his two colleagues in the Land Rover were badly injured.

Sadly like so many recent veterans, John was diagnosed with PTSD following his military service and this incident has dramatically increased his mental ill-health and fragility. John’s trauma from his experiences on military operations before the accident were exacerbated by the tragedy of this collision and its aftermath.

One month after the collision and during his recuperation, John was informed that a police investigation was underway regarding the collision. In December 2013 John was informed that the investigators were seeking a further 8 months to investigate. John was then not contacted again for over five years, and hence had every reason to believe that the investigation had been completed and the cause identified. Nonetheless, John knew his actions were not at fault.

Yet on 7 Feb 2018, more than 5 years after the collision and having not been invited by the Peruvian authorities to provide his account of what happened, John received notice from the Peruvian courts, indicting him as being responsible for the fatal collision.

John’s world fell apart once more.

A Peruvian collision investigation expert has been funded by John and his supporters to ascertain the sequence of events and using the vast amount of video footage, photographic imagery, and witness statements taken from the British and US military veterans at the scene. The expert’s findings indicate, as expected, that John bears no responsibility for causing the fatal collision. Yet the Peruvian court has not permitted this evidence to be considered.

John is determined to present the truth for all the families involved and to find the real cause of the collision for the families of those so tragically bereaved and also for his own family. To fund this quest for the truth John sought to claim on Race2Recovery’s legal insurance policy to pay for defence lawyers in both London and Peru. Regrettably John has since discovered Race2Recovery’s Trustees had failed to secure any legal insurance for the volunteers supporting the charity. Furthermore John has now found that the Charity ceased trading in 2014. John believes that the Charity’s Trustees were aware of their duty of care to their volunteers as they tried to have them sign a liability waiver at Heathrow Airport at 5am on New Year’s Eve 2013, 60 mins before they boarded the plane for Peru. John did not sign this waiver. It’s now clear that John, like all the unpaid volunteers, travelled to Peru to take part in a race known for its danger without adequate insurance cover being provided by the Charity.

John has also since learned that the French insurers of the Dakar Rally paid a significant sum in compensation to the bereaved families in 2014. In the documents submitted to the Peruvian courts in 2018, huge financial compensatory payments are being demanded from John, above those already apparently paid as settlement figures. John is described as a man fleeing from justice.

The Peruvian authorities apparently have held two court hearings regarding the collision. John was not informed of these hearings despite the authorities having been in possession of John’s contact address and passport details since 2013.

At these hearings it has been discovered that the Peru authorities instructed a defence counsel to attend on John’s behalf – without his knowledge, agreement or instruction. The Defence counsel had no defence evidence to present as John did not know of them, their existence or their instruction.

John has been indicted for the alleged crime of two counts of negligent homicide and four counts of negligent wounding. No defence case has been presented in Peru as John was not informed at any stage, that he was indicted until 2018 and yet the Peruvian prosecutor has demanded John’s conviction and incarceration in a Peruvian prison for a 6 year minimum sentence, plus compensatory payments.

The legal fees to properly fund John’s case are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands. John and his family have exhausted all their own funds.

A link to John on video explaining the injustice he faces in his own words, plus the place to donate, is here: https://uk.gofundme.com/fundjusticeforjohn2018

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