Lec­turer in car death shock

‘Tracker failed us’: el­derly par­ents cry

Post - - Front Page - CHAR­LENE SOMDUTH

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.

PIC­TURES: SIBONELO NG­COBO

Anand Lutch­miah Naidoo.

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