McBride crash: Basic questions unanswered

By Time of article published Jan 23, 2007

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By Alex Eliseev

Police have collected Robert McBride's statement detailing his recollection of his controversial car crash.

Witnesses at the scene on the R511 near Centurion on December 21 allege that Ekurhuleni metro police chief McBride was "blind drunk" at the time. He faces charges of reckless and negligent driving and a possible charge of drunk driving.

"We have obtained his statement and will wrap up our investigation. Then we will refer the docket to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision," said police spokesperson Director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo.

McBride returned to work on Monday, and during the course of the day he also made a statement at the Kempton Park police station.

It has been exactly a month since the crash, and The Star is still battling to find answers relating to the crash and its alleged cover-up by McBride's "bully" officers.

Police maintain they are busy investigating, and the Ekurhuleni metro police claim they don't want to interfere with the criminal probe.

Ekurhuleni metro police have denied McBride was drunk or that metro police officers assaulted or threatened witnesses.

Four days ago, The Star sent police and the Ekurhuleni metro police a list of 20 questions about the accident - but received few answers.

Four key questions were side-stepped:

"Was McBride taken to hospital? If so, what hospital? Was a blood test done at the hospital? If so, were the results given to the police to form part of their investigation?"

Ekurhuleni executive mayor Duma Nkosi's spokesperson, Prince Hamnca, spoke on behalf of the metro police and said he had no information, despite more than four weeks having passed.

Mariemuthoo said those questions had to be put to the metro police - who referred us to Hamnca in the first place.

All Mariemuthoo was willing to say was that their investigation was drawing to a close and would be handed over to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) "soon".

This would include a charge of reckless and negligent driving being investigated against McBride, as well as a possible charge of assault against his officers who allegedly threatened witnesses and throttled a man who was trying to take photos.

Eyewitness evidence that McBride was drunk would be handed over to the DPP for consideration, Mariemuthoo said.

Hamnca, meanwhile, continued to defend McBride and his officers.

Here are his responses:

Q: Why did officers from Ekurhuleni (McBride's men) arrive at the scene?

A: The guys were not called by Robert. They were together and were driving, to various destinations, a minute apart. They saw the (crashed) car on their way.

Witnesses have repeatedly said that the first thing McBride did after crawling out of the wrecked car was to use his cellphone, after which the officers arrived.

Q: Why did they take responsibility, knowing they were out of their jurisdiction?

A: If you are a police officer and you see an accident, can you not act? It's a crime scene, and usually the police will secure it. What's more important - to assist or to wait until an ambulance arrives?

Q: Why did the officers rush McBride away, knowing he was injured? Did they not act irresponsibly by moving him before an ambulance could arrive?

A: The officers have basic first aid training. They checked his condition and moved him.

Witnesses reported that the officers frantically rushed McBride, who sustained head and rib injuries, away from the scene.

Q: Did they interfere with evidence by removing items from the car and clearing out the boot?

A: Police must establish that. We have insufficient information to take action against them. (Despite the affidavits of five witnesses.)

Q: Who officially investigated the scene? (McBride's men or officers from Tshwane.)

A: I don't know.

Q: Was McBride tested for alcohol levels at the scene?

A: I don't know.

Q: Were any clues collected to indicate whether McBride had been speeding?

A: I don't know.

Q: McBride was reportedly rushing to a riot. Was there a riot or not? (The councillor allegedly in danger has denied there was any trouble in his area that day.)

A: Our information is that Robert got a call from his colleagues to assist the councillor.

In a follow-up phone call, The Star asked:

Q: Do you not think McBride should be suspended until the investigation is complete?

A: There is no basis for us to suspend him. We are not going to suspend him on allegations.

Q: But there is a police investigation against him and the affidavits of five witnesses.

A: There is no court case.

Meanwhile, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) is investigating McBride's officers for allegedly bullying witnesses who had stopped to help.

At least five people have submitted statements to both the ICD and the police to say McBride smelt of alcohol and his men behaved like hooligans.

A Cape Town man has accused one of the officers of throttling him and breaking his spectacles. The officers had also apparently pointed firearms at the witnesses, threatening to use them if they continued to take photographs.

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