Ford Kuga Inquest: Noise near burnt-out Kuga not a gunshot says witness

2019-03-27 15:41
Renisha Jimmy, sister of Reshall Jimmy who burnt to death in a Ford Kuga, talks to Gerrie Nel in the Cape High Court. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Renisha Jimmy, sister of Reshall Jimmy who burnt to death in a Ford Kuga, talks to Gerrie Nel in the Cape High Court. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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A retired engineer insisted that he did not hear a gunshot on the night Reshall Jimmy's burnt body was found inside his Ford Kuga as the inquest into whether there is any culpability for his death continued in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

"I didn't hear anything like that because a gunshot would automatically lead me to look for cover and not for my garden hose," Michael Tacke told Judge Robert Henney.

Tacke said he and his wife were sitting on their stoep when they suddenly heard a noise. 

Used to people crashing into their hedge that borders the road to a nearby backpackers, Tacke walked up to have a look to see what was happening on the Waterside Road part of their property in Wildnerness, near George.

READ: Ford Kuga inquest: Witness says he always suspected foul play

"Unfortunately in the late hours of the evening, coming from the backpackers and the hotel they (visitors) do lose control of their velocity. The hedge is a good energy absorber."

He saw flames about 3 metres high licking over the hedge and heard voices he could not understand.

He surmised that it was a fire caused by a liquid.

He ran for the garden hose, but quickly realised that the hose was not going to put the fire out. 

He told his wife to call the fire brigade and she reported to him that they were already on their way because somebody else had also called. 

No crime in the area

Pressed on whether the noise he had heard could have been a gunshot, he said it sounded more like "plooping" and likened it to the sound of a tyre bursting.

He testified that other than the nuisance of noise and late-night drumming coming from the backpackers, there was no crime in the area. There had also been no fires. 

"We never had fires but we had people scrambling out of the hedge in a questionable status," said Tacke, bringing some levity to the serious proceedings with descriptions of living near a backpackers' lodge. 

The inquest is being held after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declined a prosecution after Jimmy's death. 

His sister, Renisha, is convinced that her sibling's death was caused by a technical failure on the vehicle.

Engine cooling deficiency

The company has already submitted that after the death of Jimmy, there were 52 incidents of fires in Kuga vehicles, but nobody was injured. The fires led to a major recall by Ford of 4 670 vehicles in South Africa in January 2017. This was to rectify an engine cooling deficiency. 

Ford maintains that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding Jimmy's death and that in his case, there was no technical failure on his vehicle. 

These circumstances include witness statements that a carload of men were seen at the scene and left.

The inquest does not find anybody guilty or innocent.

It only determines whether there is prima facie evidence for a prosecution. 

The Jimmy family is being assisted by AfriForum's private prosecuting wing, and former NPA advocate Gerrie Nel is leading questioning on their behalf with a view to presenting a strong enough case to warrant a private prosecution.

The inquest continues with an employee of the Fairy Knowe hotel who checked Jimmy in shortly after 21:00. 

The fire occurred shortly after 22:00.

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