Kuga fire witness ‘colluding with Ford’, Gerrie Nel alleges

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Kuga fire witness ‘colluding with Ford’, Gerrie Nel alleges

Andrew Roberts tells Reshall Jimmy probe he was asked to include evidence that wasn't in original police statement

Journalist


Former Ford South Africa chief executive Jeff Nemeth told a police witness to change his statement to include details which could make a deadly Ford Kuga fire look like foul play.
This was the testimony of Andrew Roberts in the High Court in Cape Town on Monday. Roberts told Judge Robert Henney that Nemeth called him and told him to contact Weber & Wentzel Attorneys to include details of evidence which were absent from the statement he initially gave to the police investigating the fire.
Reshall Jimmy, 32, died inside his luxury Ford Kuga SUV in Wilderness in the Western Cape on December 4 2015. According to the state, Jimmy passed out after he inhaled fumes before the car caught alight.
Since the incident, more than 80 Kugas have caught fire in SA, and TimesLIVE reported in 2017 that Nemeth was recalled to America shortly after he recalled 4,500 Kugas. The recalls came after Ford found that a faulty coolant system was the cause of the fires.
But before Nemeth left in 2017, he allegedly sat with Roberts as he deposed an affidavit, which the CEO said would be used in the inquest.
AfriForum advocate Gerrie Nel, representing the Jimmy family, grilled Roberts in court on Monday, alleging that he was working with Ford and hiding his alleged prejudice towards coloured people.
This was after Roberts included in his statement to Ford’s lawyers that he saw at least two coloured males in a Toyota Corolla making a U-turn about 800m before the scene of the fire.
After a day playing golf on one of SA’s top golf courses, Fancourt in nearby George, and dinner, Roberts and his friend were on their way to their accommodation in Wilderness when they came cross the Corolla.
After a few more bends, Roberts and his friend drove past the Kuga, but did not notice it. They were then flagged down by a young couple who had parked on the side of the road.
When they got out they saw the car tyres and the fuel tank exploding.
Reading from the statement he made to Ford’s lawyers, Roberts said that after the flames were extinguished by the fire department, a police officer walked by and said there was someone in the car with a hole in their head.
Under questioning by Nel, Roberts said police came to him and his friend while they were playing golf at the Bellville golf course to inform them that the autopsy had found that the cause of Jimmy’s death was as a result of him passing out and the car catching on fire.
He said that he made his statement to Ford after this, on May 18, less then two weeks before Nemeth was recalled.
In his statement to Ford, Roberts claimed that he did tell the investigating officer about the Corolla and the comment by the policeman that there was a hole in the head of the occupant of the car, but the investigator told him “not to think about it” and that “the heat could have caused that”.
Jimmy’s sister, Renisha, sat through the inquiry, where videos of the fire in which her brother perished were shown.
“Ford has manufactured rumours that he was murdered or committed suicide; these are among the various stories they’ve tried to spin,” she said.
“For us as a family, we would like that they retract false rumours that they’ve made, and for the peace of my mother especially. It’s killing her that Reshall’s name has been tarnished and dragged through the mud as a result of them manufacturing this narrative,” said Renisha.
Responding to questions from Times Select, Ford spokesperson Minesh Bhagaloo said: “Ford will continue to co-operate fully with the justice system and the affected parties to understand what transpired. We look forward to the opportunity for all of the circumstances surrounding Mr Jimmy’s death to be fully understood.”
The inquiry is continuing.

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