WATCH | Gavin Watson's death car stripped at scrapyard, but police say they have all the evidence

2019-08-28 11:55
The wreckage of the car Gavin Watson was driving when it was involved in a crash close to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. (Sesona Ngqakamba/News24)

The wreckage of the car Gavin Watson was driving when it was involved in a crash close to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. (Sesona Ngqakamba/News24)

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The scene of Bosasa boss Gavin Watson's final moments, where the mangled wreckage of the vehicle he crashed in was found, held all the pieces of forensic evidence police need to finalise their culpable homicide investigation, police say.

News24 obtained footage of the Toyota Corolla Watson drove into a concrete bridge pillar on Monday, in an area adjacent to the road that leads to the parking and drop-off zones of OR Tambo International Airport.

The footage was taken inside the police impound in Benoni where the car is being stored, raising concerns about a lack of security and the possibility of evidence tampering.

"At this stage, we are satisfied that all the evidence required for the purpose of this investigation was gathered at the scene," SA Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said.

He explained that after Watson was removed from the vehicle, the scene was combed for clues.

"We have trained accident response teams and forensic experts who look for other types of evidence. Where the vehicle is being kept now, is simply for storage purposes. It will be kept there in case the court says it needs the investigators to look at something else on the car,” he added. 

Amid choking dust and an overwhelming stench of sewage News24 on Tuesday observed forensic investigators combing the wreckage of the Corolla that took Watson on his final, fatal journey. 

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

It was a little more than 24 hours after the crash. On Wednesday, a forensic expert hired by the Watson family is also expected to inspect the wreckage.

The Benoni SAPS impound was filled with cars that have similarly met tragic ends, each with their own story of loss and horror to tell.

Scattered around were yet more cars, seemingly untouched, seized or recovered by police.

News24 was escorted to the back of the impound, past hundreds of cars packed tightly together, abandoned and forlorn under a thick layer of grime and dust. 

Along a dirt path, separated from the rest of the cars by a palisade gate and fence, Watson's car was parked on a patch of earth, now semi-dismantled and surrounded by the hulls of similarly destroyed vehicles.

When News24 arrived, a police officers and forensics investigators were getting ready to leave after having worked on the car.

READ | 'Eyewitness' claims Gavin Watson committed suicide

No police tape was placed around it and there was no cover to protect it from the elements.

It was propped up on its own wheels with the driver's side door, the bonnet, engine parts and bumper laid around it in a circle. The shattered windscreen was set down on the roof.

The right front half of the car was destroyed. The right front axle was completely sheared off and the engine pushed back into the firewall and broken open.

Both the passenger's and driver's airbags had been deployed during the crash. Only the driver's side was stained with blood.

The driver's side seatbelt was tucked in behind Watson's body, the buckle clipped in. Photographs from the scene showed the seatbelt in the same position, where it remained when News24 inspected the car at the impound.  

READ | Family can't rule out foul play in Bosasa boss Gavin Watson's fatal crash

Dark, reddish-brown and dried out, Watson's blood could still be seen on the car. Glass and debris were scattered throughout the interior.

The front windscreen support pillar was cut by firefighters at the scene who worked to extricate Watson's body from the wreckage, photographs News24 obtained show.

The images show Watson still inside the vehicle, before he was pulled out. Another image, which cannot be published due to the nature of the scene, shows Watson's body on the tarmac after it was removed from the car.

Watson was laid down on his back, his right arm slung over his abdomen.

A gaping wound is visible on the right side of his neck. More wounds are visible on his right hand and both legs, which appear badly broken and bleeding.  

READ | Gavin Watson had R70 but no cellphone with him when he died

On Tuesday, spokesperson for Bosasa and the family, Papa Leshabane confirmed to News24 that the Watson family had not ruled out foul play.

A source close to the family claimed the neck wound was a red flag for Watson's relatives who suspect he was murdered.

At the scene of the crash on Monday, no skid marks indicating an attempt by Watson to brake or swerve could be found.

Speculation about how the accident occurred is rife and police have launched a culpable homicide investigation as is standard procedure.

The family however appointed Konrad Lotter, a forensic specialist, to conduct an independent investigation.

Lotter recently appeared as an expert witness in the culpable homicide case against Duduzane Zuma. 

READ | Mandy Wiener: Gavin Watson's death – Brett Kebble 2.0?

In a statement released on Tuesday, Lotter confirmed his appointment and stated that the results  of his investigation would be confidential and would only be given to the Watson family.

News24 understands a post-mortem examination was scheduled to be conducted on Tuesday, however, it is not clear if the procedure went ahead as planned.

The results are likely to clear the air on the rumours about what caused the fatal crash.

Watson was scheduled to appear before a tax inquiry initiated by the South African Revenue Service to look into claims of large-scale tax avoidance by Bosasa and Watson.

It remains unclear why Watson was heading to the airport and if he was scheduled to board a flight on Monday morning.

All that was found in the car was Watson's wallet, containing R70, as well as his ID card and driver's licence.

Watson signed out the Toyota Corolla, a Bosasa fleet car, over the weekend.His high-performance BMW X5 reportedly suffered a mechanical fault prompting him to park it at Bosasa's Krugersdorp office.

As of Tuesday evening, no funeral plans had been made public.

READ | 'Very plausible' that Gavin Watson was trying to flee country when he died - Angelo Agrizzi

On Wednesday, Lotter as well as other police officials and forensic examiners are expected to inspect the car, having conducted an inspection of the crash site on Tuesday.

Darrell Strydom, an accident reconstruction expert and investigator of JP Strydom Accident Consultants (JPSAC), told News24 that the Corolla ought to be kept under lock and key at the impound in Benoni. 

"People should not be able to freely access or take anything out of the vehicle without proper police authorisation as the matter is still under investigation. The access issue is arguably a bigger issue than perhaps the elements," he said.

"It's preferable to have the vehicle stored under some shelter away from the elements, but that's not to say it's an absolute must… for instance, rain water may have a bearing on certain aspects of the evidence, but it's more important where this vehicle is being kept, who can access it, [whether there is] acceptable protocol to regulate who comes in and who goes out," he added.

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Read more on:    bosasa  |  gavin watson  |  johannesburg  |  accidents
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