Bail refused for teenage “death minibus driver” and uncle held in France

French authorities have refused applications for bail by the 19-year-old driver and the owner of the minibus involved in the head-on accident with a fully-loaded meat lorry that killed 12 Portuguese emigrés – one of them a seven-year-old child – in central France just before Easter.

Magistrates did not consider the guarantees offered by both men to be sufficient, reports national tabloid Correio da Manhã. Thus Ricardo Pinheiro and his uncle will be remaining in preventive custody for the next few days at least, charged with the involuntary homicide and offences to the physical integrity of all 12 victims.

CM explains that, in the meantime, lawyer Álvaro Dias will be pulling out all the stops to get his clients bailed.

One of the stipulations from magistrates at Moulins court was a work contract for Pinheiro, as well as a rental contract.

Dias apparently could not get these in time for Monday’s hearing, but hopes to do so by next week.

Whatever happens, the decision to remand in custody will come up for review in four months time, writes CM – by which point, French authorities should have completed their investigation.

National media has explained that questions will need to be asked of authorities in both Switzerland and Portugal as the tragedy has thrown up many questions.

One of the most important is how the six-seater Mercedes minibus had been ‘adapated’ to take more than double the number of passengers.

The inference here has always been that the adaptation was not only illegal, but unsafe.

Shots of the wreckage that also claimed the life of a 17-year-old from Pombal show the body of minibus did not even have windows, while elsewhere reports have mentioned tyres in poor condition.

A report over the weekend also suggests Pinheiro – unlicensed to carry passengers and limited in experience due to his age – was travelling at 5km over the 90km speed limit.

According to CM, Pinheiro and his uncle Arménio Pinto are also related to some of the victims.

This is another aspect of the case that swayed magistrates from granting bail, claims the paper, as both men could be tempted to try and influence witnesses.

For now, Álvaro Dias will be doing his best for his clients as he comes from Pinheiro’s home borough of Aguiar de Beira, and has taken the case “as a matter of conscience”, explains CM.

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