James Small, the legendary former Springbok who passed away this week, was found naked and unconscious in a strip club hours before his death.
Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo yesterday confirmed to City Press’ sister publication Rapport that an inquest to determine the circumstances surrounding the 50-year-old rugby hero’s death was ongoing.
Gavin Houlston, Small’s brother-in-law who is acting as a spokesperson on behalf of Small’s ex-wife Christina Storm and the Small family, confirmed that Small died of a heart attack.
He said a police investigation found no suspicious circumstances and did not wish to comment on the matter any further.
But a shocked source, who was at the Life Bedford Gardens Hospital in Bedfordview for unrelated reasons on Tuesday night at around midnight, told Rapport that hospital staff called the police because of the strange events at the hospital’s trauma unit.
The source did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation.
The witness claimed that:
. A woman stormed into the hospital saying there was a “client from her club” in the car. She said, in the presence of others, that he was too heavy to be transported in a wheelchair and that the hospital should send a bed;
. The patient was naked and nurses had to rush to get a blanket to cover him up;
. The woman was with a man who identified himself as an “Uber driver”. Uber on Friday confirmed to Rapport that it could not find any record of a requested trip in the area during that time period;
. Neither the man nor the woman would sign Small’s admission document and argued about this.
“The woman told the man to phone a ‘Steven’,” said the source.
. Another man, thought to be Steven, subsequently arrived with Small’s cell phone, laptop, wallet and a notebook. He was the one who signed the admission form;
. When the police arrived, the source claims, there was apparently an argument of some sort between the three people and the hospital’s security guards, which led to the police intervening.
“At one point, Steven even took out his firearm,” said the source. The source said there was a “very tense” atmosphere at the hospital.
Rapport understands that police unsuccessfully attempted to unlock Small’s phone at the scene, but they could see his SMS notification.
According to the source, a police officer remarked that R1 000 had been withdrawn from his account about half an hour before he was brought to the hospital.
A highly placed source in rugby circles, who is familiar with the events of the evening, said Small was at The Harem club in Bedfordview.
“James was single and an adult. He did not cheat on anyone. His daughter was safely at home under adult supervision.”
The source further said there were three withdrawals of R1 000 each on that night, but that James’ friends had confirmed they were all made by him.
Attempts to contact The Harem’s owner were unsuccessful. An employee said she was not in the country.
Houlston did not want to answer questions about the circumstances surrounding Small’s death.
He said a postmortem inquiry had determined that the cause of death was an ischemic heart attack.
“The sudden death of a well-known person inevitably prompts all kinds of unfounded rumours, which may circulate either in the press or on social media. At this incredibly difficult time we very seriously appeal to both the public and the media to resist idle speculation and allow our beloved son, brother, father and friend to rest in peace,” he said.