Adv. Gerrie Nel cross-examines fire expert in inquest of deaths of Deedat family members in house fire  

Adv. Gerrie Nel, head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, cross-examined a fire expert on 10 and 11 February 2021 in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court about the deaths of Suraya Deedat and her four children in a house fire in 2011. The fire expert was appointed by the legal team of the person of interest in the inquest, Naeem Deedat. Deedat was Suraya’s husband and also the only person who survived the fire.

Gary Kemp of Phoenix Fire Investigation was appointed by Naeem’s legal team to deliver criticism on the fire reports that were compiled by AfriForum’s fire expert (Danny Joubert) as well as the original fire report by the South African Fire Brigade Service. During cross-examination Kemp admitted that he couldn’t dispute Joubert’s report regarding where the bed stood in relation to the heater. Kemp also had to admit that the door between the room (where Suraya and her children’s bodies were found) and the bathroom (where Naeem stood under the shower to protect himself from the flames) had to at least have been closed at one stage. He also had to admit that he has never had a fire investigation in which five bodies were found on their backs in a burnt-down house, and also that it was possible that somebody could have carried their bodies and left them in that position.

For almost a decade nobody had been held accountable for the deaths of Suraya and her children, and the formal inquest gives interested parties the opportunity to test evidence and to help the magistrate come to a conclusion about who and/or what was responsible for their deaths.

“AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit hopes that the inquest will lead to justice for Suraya’s family and that the court will order the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute. It  is important for AfriForum to get involved in cases such as this one, because justice needs to be served for the family that has waited so long for answers about what happened that night,” says Andrew Leask, Head Investigator at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.

The inquest will continue on 15 and 16 February when Naeem’s legal team will call an expert from the Council for Scientific and Industrial research (CSIR) to testify.

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