Lecturer in car death shock
‘Tracker failed us’: elderly parents cry
AUNIVERSITY lecturer who went missing was found dead, slumped over the steering wheel of his car at a popular mall while his distraught father paced by only metres away, getting SMSes from a tracking company saying his vehicle could not be found.
Anand Lutchmiah Naidoo’s elderly oThongathi (Tongaat) parents are devastated at the unexpected death of their diabetic son from an apparent heart attack. But they’re furious that the tracking company failed to locate their missing son’s stationary car almost eight hours after they were informed.
Police found Naidoo, 49, in his VW Jetta in the parking lot of Ballito Junction regional mall on Tuesday last week. His dad Bob, 84, standing metres away from the car, continued to receive SMSes and a phone call from Tracker informing him the vehicle could not be found.
The operational services executive for Tracker, Ron Knott-Craig, blamed limited radio network coverage in Ballito, saying that once activated the recovery time could vary from five minutes to a couple of hours. This, he said, depended on the type of device installed and circumstances of the activation.
A Tracker client for two years, Bob and his wife Sheila, 72, both retired principals, say the reason offered is simply not good enough.
“Others like us have tracking systems installed out of fear of being hijacked. Are these precautionary measures in vain, because we certainly did not get the help we needed?” said Sheila.
She was further perturbed by the mall’s security.
“People don’t just park their vehicles for more than eight hours, especially when the mall is closed for business.
“Why didn’t security check?”
She said it was believed her son, a media studies lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, had suffered a heart attack.
Sitting hand in hand, the couple, volunteers at the Friends of the Sick Association, struggled to hold back tears as they spoke about what had happened to their son.
“My son lived in La Mercy but after he hurt his leg in an accident, he decided to move in with us. He also suffered from diabetes and this caused his already injured leg to weaken further,” said Sheila.
“He arrived home every day from work before 6pm. He was never late because he did not like driving at night. When he failed to return home last Monday at 6pm, I became worried and tried to call him four times on his cellphone, but it went to voicemail.”
At around 7.20pm, the panic-stricken couple called their son’s friend, Anand Nadar, for help.
“He went to the university to look for Anand but his car was not in the parking area and his office was locked.
“We realised a tracker was installed and called our finance broker. Just after 8pm, the broker contacted the tracking company but they refused to activate the device until a missing persons case was opened.”
The couple’s younger son, Kiren, took them to the oThongathi police station at around 9.30pm, where a case was opened.
Sheila said the officer on duty contacted the tracking company and the device was activated soon thereafter.
“Every hour after the activation, we received messages informing us that they were unable to locate the vehicle.”
As the hours slowly ticked by, the family’s hope turned to despair.
At around 4am the following day, a policeman phoned Bob and informed him that his son had been found.
“He said Anand had suffered a heart attack in his car, which was parked at the mall.”
Bob and Kiren drove to the mall and found Naidoo’s body slumped over the steering wheel.
While standing next to the VW Jetta, Bob received a phone call from the tracking company telling him the vehicle had still not been found.
“I was furious. I was standing right next to my dead son’s body. I told the consultant that and he was speechless.”
He said mall management visited them on Friday and informed them a security guard had checked on their son at around 11pm.
“If my son was ill, I know he would have asked for help.”
Naidoo’s cremation was held later that day.
“When I saw his face in the coffin, I could not believe it was my son,” said Sheila. “His face had turned black, his body was bloated and there was blood dripping down his nose. He was unrecognisable.”
The mall’s chief executive, Geraldine Jorgenson, said Naidoo arrived at 1.23pm last Monday.
“While stores close at 7pm, the centre remains open into the evening for the restaurants and GoldRush (bingo and entertainment).
“Security approached the vehicle just before midnight and asked Mr Naidoo if all was in order or if he required assistance,” said Jorgenson, who added that Naidoo had advised that he was fine.
“He did not need assistance and wished to rest. This interaction was logged in the centre security system at this time.
“At 3.45am, security once again approached the vehicle. On sight of the deceased, security alerted the medical services and the SAPS.”
Knott-Craig, meanwhile, added that the company suspected Naidoo’s car was parked in an area where the tracking device was unable “to hear the network and was therefore unable to respond to the activation commands sent to the device” by their system.
He said radio frequency technology operated similar to cell phone technology where spots with limited coverage existed.
Knott-Craig added that Naidoo’s tracking unit was operational and advised that customers test their units twice a year, depending on the requirements of their insurer.
Bob and Sheila Naidoo at their oThongathi home.
Anand Lutchmiah Naidoo.