Wed, 23 Oct 2019

Gavin Watson's death: 5 holes in the investigation

News24
22 Sep 2019, 16:10 GMT+10

Almost a month has gone by since late Bosasa boss Gavin Watson's fatal crash that shocked South Africa, but the nation is no more clued up on the facts of his death than they were that Monday morning in August.

This despite the fact that there appear to be three parallel investigations underway into Watson's death: The official police investigation, the Watson family's own probe through private forensic experts and inquiries made by the Zondo commission into state capture.

READ | Gavin Watson's death: 7 key unanswered questions

Watson crashed his Bosasa company car, a Toyota Corolla, into a concrete pillar approaching OR Tambo International Airport on the R21 on August 26.

A source close to the Watson family told News24 there were a number of outstanding factors in the investigation, including data from Watson's cellphone, CCTV footage of the car before or during the accident, the final pathology report and the findings on the actual vehicle.

The missing cellphone

When the police arrived at the scene of the crash, Watson's cellphone was allegedly already missing. When traced, it was picked up in Germiston and then Bryanston at about 19:00 the same day of the crash. It has never been found.

READ | Gavin Watson was 'already dead' at time of crash - report

The source said the phone's tracking data was still needed.

"It should have taken 48 hours. Four weeks almost, and we're still waiting.

"It is a big concern especially as the phone was moving subsequent to Gavin's death," the source said.

READ | EXPLAINED: How the evidence answers 10 questions about Gavin Watson's death

The data will be important because it will be able to tell investigators what Watson's movements were in the hours preceding his death and to whom he was talking.

While it will be unable to show the contents of data phone calls or messages sent on WhatsApp or other messaging apps, it will show where he was and which cellphone towers his phone was pinging off.

The question of cameras

The question of the existence of CCTV footage of Watson's car either before or after the crash is still looming.

The crash happened within walking distance of the airport, however, News24 observed no cameras that could have possibly recorded the crash.

Neither Sanral nor ACSA have given any clarity on why there were no cameras on this particular stretch of road. OR Tambo is a national key point and it would have been expected that the approach to it would have been covered by cameras.

Footage at the crash site and on the few hundred metres before the accident scene would be able to show if Watson was followed or run off the road as some have speculated.

It could also cast a light on whether or not he stopped his vehicle a few hundred metres before he crashed as one eyewitness has claimed.

What the body could tell us

While the family has heard evidence from a preliminary pathology report from experts - a key piece of evidence - the final report will still take a while to finalise.

"[The experts] have effectively ruled out the possibility of the accident being self-inflicted from their investigations," the source said.

"We are told that in the professional opinion of the pathologist, Gavin was either dead or his heart was not functioning at the time of the impact of the vehicle.

"This was confirmed by the pathologist's observations that in spite of the laceration of the neck and severed aorta, neither of these wounds showed significant blood loss, and the brush abrasions on the body were dry.

"This would confirm the pathologist's view, that at the time these injuries were incurred, the heart was already not functioning."

The source continued: "Obviously, Gavin could not be driving while dead, so this would either mean something occurred to just prior to the accident or some other event that we cannot speculate about just yet happened."

Crucially, the toxicology report is still outstanding and could take some time to be completed.

The source said the pathologist could only comment on what he had witnessed during the autopsy, while the final report would reveal toxicology results and whether foul play was involved.

This would take some time, the source added.

Handling the vehicle wreck

Watson's crumpled car had undergone a forensic investigation at a police impound in Benoni. News24 previously published footage of the car as it had undergone investigation during which time it had been stripped.

At the time, national police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo told News24 they were satisfied the evidence they needed was gathered at the scene of the crash.

Once the vehicle was removed from the scene, it was combed for clues.

News24 confirmed the investigation on the car was complete; however, the source said there was no report as yet.

"From the vehicle, we need a complete report that will specify if it had been tampered with in any way. However, a significant concern is how quickly the vehicle was stripped."

Where was Watson going?

There is still no clarity on what Watson was doing travelling to the airport at dawn on a Monday morning. He was not scheduled to fly to Port Elizabeth as he often did to consult with his lawyers.

Watson's company still had security contracts at the facility and it is possible he was going to check on something there or meet with someone. The airport may have served as a convenient and anonymous venue for him to hold a clandestine meeting of sorts.

As far as the public is aware, no one has come forward to say they were due to meet with him or having any knowledge of why he was there.

Recovering his phone may clarify this as, according to WhatsApp, he had sent his last message in the hour or so before the accident.

All the police could find on him at the scene was his ID, driver's licence and R70.

It is believed Watson attended a prayer meeting the day before his death and then worked on preparations for the tax inquiry he was to attend the day after.

Investigations are ongoing

While the police are being extremely tight-lipped regarding their investigation, the source said not much information had come from them, adding the police should be more forthcoming with the family as it was unclear whether they were making progress.

Naidoo said he could not provide any updates on the ongoing investigation "due to the potential of them compromising the investigation".

The family's private investigator could also not disclose any information, as requested by their lawyers.

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