William “Bill” Swales is a New Zealander living in Mount Macedon, Victoria, who is charged with five counts of culpable driving causing death after crashing into a pub in Daylesford. Photo / Seven News
A New Zealand-born driver accused of killing five people by crashing into a pub beer garden after allegedly ignoring alerts about his low glucose levels has been freed on bail with an A$250,000 ($269,755) surety and a condition he not drive.
William “Bill” Swale, 66, was charged with culpable driving causing death, negligently causing serious injury and reckless conduct endangering lives over the November 5 crash.
Swale’s SUV mounted the kerb and hit several patrons seated on the front lawn of the Royal Daylesford Hotel just after 6pm.
Pratibha Sharma, 44, her daughter Anvi, 9, and partner Jatin Kumar, 30, and their friend Vivek Bhatia, 38, and his son Vihaan, 11, all died.
Australia’s Daily Mail reported that a court hearing on Friday was told Swale had made his fortune working as an IT guru in New Zealand, where he was born. He now lives in an upmarket home in Mount Macedon, north of Melbourne.
Prosecutors took a neutral position on Swale’s application for bail, telling the court he had been returning from a clay shooting tournament in Clunes when he stopped in Daylesford.
Swale, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 1994, was wearing a blood glucose monitoring device which sends an alert to his phone when his glucose levels are outside the normal range.
It is alleged the 66-year-old retiree scanned his blood glucose levels at 5.17pm on the day which returned a low reading and an alarm sounded one minute later, indicating he should check his levels.
CCTV footage showed him entering a restaurant opposite the pub a few minutes later asking for a table but he returned to his car as there were none available, Sergeant Peter Romanis told the court.
Swale was then seen on CCTV at 5.42pm driving his car around the area, performing a U-turn to drive down another street, before it crashed into the pub patrons about 6pm.
Prosecutors alleged he received and ignored nine alerts in the lead-up.
Swale’s barrister Dermot Dann told Magistrate Brett Sonnet there were more than a dozen compelling reasons supporting Swale’s release on bail.
Among them were Swale’s lack of criminal history, his family support, the lack of risk alleged by police, and his vulnerability in custody because of his medical condition and publicity surrounding the case.
Dann said there had never been a case like this one, prosecuted on the basis of a person’s blood glucose levels.
A medical report from Swale’s endocrinologist described him as an excellent patient who he saw three to four times a year, and who had missed just one appointment in 29 years.
He said Swale had, until now, avoided severe hypoglycaemia.
Sonnet described the case as akin to someone driving while fatigued.
He also pointed out Swale had received a significant number of traffic tickets, but Dann said the most serious was a one-month loss of licence in a 40-year driving career.
Swale was granted bail on conditions including that he not drive and that a A$250,000 surety be made available to ensure his attendance at the next court hearing.
He’s due to face Ballarat Magistrates Court for a case conference on April 18, 2024.
The Mail reported that Dann had informed the court that his client could pay the half-a-million dollar surety while making his closing submissions to Sonnett.
But when the time came to pay, the money appeared not to be readily available.
“Would your honour consider $200,000?’ Dann’s offsider Martin Amad asked.
Amad had run the initial bail application on Monday before Dann took over the role on Friday.
“$250,000,” Sonnett replied.
“Deal,” came the answer.
Dann said Swale had started out his career selling photocopiers before building his fortune developing software for some of Australia’s largest banks and energy companies.
– AAP, agencies.