Stuart Walker vs Lowvelder

Complainant: Stuart Walker

Article: The mother of all fraud accusations

Date: 25 November 2010

Respondent: Lowvelder

Complaint
Mr Stuart Walker, a former car dealership owner in Nelspruit, complains about two stories in Lowvelder. The first story was published on October 15, 2010 and is headlined The mother of all fraud accusations; the second story is headlined Yet another twist in the Walker tale – He is now suspected of being in unauthorized possession of firearms (October 19, 2010).
With regards to the first story, Walker says the following words/phrases in the intro are unjustified, untrue or without any proof of evidence:
  • Disgraced;
  • Facing another fraud charge; and
  • Bamboozling yet another client.
He adds that:
  • Ms Gail Gavrill’s name is spelt incorrectly;
  • Gavrill (Walker’s mother-in-law) never confirmed the issue mentioned in the intro;
  • The allegation that Gavrill’s so-called statement was “soon to be incorporated into the other fraud cases against her (Ms Angela Walker, Walker’s wife) and her husband Stuart” is false;
  • The statement that Gavrill purchased an Aston Martin from the Walkers’ Luxury Car Dealership, SWJ Motors, is false;
  • Ms Walker was never driving “the car” around;
  • Ms Walker never applied for finance with Wesbank behind Gavrill’s back;
  • The dealership, at the time, did not experience a cash-flow problem;
  • The following sentence is untrue: “The loan was approved and paid out, after which Walker at first faithfully paid back the monthly installments but soon defaulted”;
  • There was no massive outstanding finance on Gavrill’s name;
  • There were no “others” who had lost millions at the hands of the Walkers;
  • There is no Commercial Crime Unit awaiting Gavrill’s statement;
  • The newspaper did not expose any “double financing” or “other irregularities”; and
  • There was no application for liquidation in 2008.
Walker adds that he was not informed that the story was going to be published and was not asked for comment.
Regarding the second story, Walker complains that some statements in the story are false, untrue or unjustified, namely that:
  • several fraud charges are currently being investigated against him and his wife;
  • he is in unauthorized possession of firearms;
  • Ms Jeanne Beith’s relationship with the Walkers;
  • the Walkers gave instructions not to allow the Marthinusens access to certain items;
  • items in the house included three grandfather clocks;
  • rifles in safekeeping formed part of Jeanne Beith’s estate; and
  • he attempted to sell the rifles on a website.
He adds that he was not asked for comment prior to publication.
Analysis
The intro to the first story pretty much sums it up: “Disgraced former Lowveld socialist and businesswoman Ms Angela Walker, is in hot water once again, facing another fraud charge for bamboozling yet another former client: this time her own mother.”
The gist of the story is that Walker’s mother, Ms Gail Gavrill, bought a R1 million car at the Walkers’ dealership. The story says she bought it for cash – or so she had thought. The story continues that Walker then had applied for vehicle finance and was consequently paid out. She reportedly did this because the dealership experienced cash-flow problems. The story says that Walker initially had paid the installments on the car, but that she soon defaulted – resulting in her mother now being liable for the outstanding balance of close to R1 million.
The story alleges that Walker’s mother is but one of numerous others who allegedly lost millions at the Walkers’ hands.
The second story reports on Mr Walker who is “suspected of being in unauthorized possession of firearms which belonged to Ms Angela Walker’s deceased aunt Ms Jeanne Beith”.
Before we consider the merits of the complaint, the following two remarks are appropriate:
  • In the Bogoshi case at the Supreme Court a few years ago a landmark verdict regarding journalism was made. The part of it that is relevant to both complaints boils down to this: A newspaper does not have to prove that its story is true; however, it should be able to show that, at the time of publication, it was reasonable to believe that the story was true, and that it took reasonable steps to verify its information.
  • The newspaper says it based its information on sources whose identity they are not at liberty to disclose. This is its prerogative. I shall also protect their identity, merely saying “Source”.
Now, the merits of the complaint:
The first story
Disgraced
The intro to the story says Ms Walker was “disgraced”.
Walker says his wife “has never been disgraced ever in the Lowveld or anywhere else in South Africa”.
The Lowvelder begs to differ, giving examples to back up its use of this word. For example, the newspaper says that:
  • BMW SA cancelled its franchise agreement with the Walkers after an investigation launched into several irregularities regarding double financing;
  • BMW Finance brought a law suit against the Walkers involving more than ten financial deals;
  • The community started a “shaming” blog site “dedicated to the scandals of the Walkers”;
  • Ms Walker was well-known for her infamous “fits of anger”;
  • “Tens of people” contacted the newspaper on a daily basis to complain about Ms Walker;
  • A Police source confirmed that the Walkers were being investigated for fraud;
  • The newspaper interviewed another client who was the victim of double financing; and
  • Several former employees at SJW motors stated that they were aware of double financing at the dealership.
Walker counters that there is no evidence to back up the newspaper’s argument; he says that all of these are deductions that have been inflated and fabricated by Lowvelder to “juice up” a story in order to defame him and his wife and to sell more newspapers. With reference to the BMW matter, Walker says that there was no investigation regarding irregularities at all.
The following considerations are relevant:
I phoned Source and am satisfied that s/he is both credible and reliable. Source told me that the Police’s Serious Economic Offences Unit is indeed investigating more than ten charges of fraud against the Walkers. S/he told me that these charges are all grouped together in one dossier, adding that the charges are mainly in connection with the double financing of motor vehicles.
The question now is if it was reasonable for the newspaper to use this word.
Yes, it was – considering the above-mentioned examples.
Facing another fraud charge
The intro says that Ms Walker was “facing another fraud charge”.
Walker says that his wife has never been charged with any fraud case anywhere.
Based on what Source told me, it is reasonable to believe that the statement in dispute is true.
Bamboozling yet another client
The intro says that Ms Walker was in trouble again, “facing another fraud charge for bamboozling yet another former client”.
Walker says that his wife has never bamboozled any client at any time.
That may or may not be true, but that is not what the sentence says. Let’s read it again: “…facing another fraud charge for bamboozling…”. (emphasis added) It does not say that Walker has in fact bamboozled another client; all it says is that she was facing a charge for bamboozling – which means that, based on what Source told me, this statement is factually correct.

Ms Gail Gavrill’s name spelt incorrectly

 

The story spells Ms Gavrill’s surname incorrectly as “Mavrill”. The newspaper admits to this mistake.
Gavrill confirming the issue mentioned in the intro
The story says that it “came to light that (Ms) Walker’s aggrieved mother…recently made a statement to her Cape Town attorney regarding this affair…”
Walker says that, according to Gavrill, she has never made any statement to her attorney.
The Lowvelder says Source told its journalist that Gavrill will make a statement to her attorney in Cape Town and send it to him to incorporate in his investigation. However, Source now says that he suspects that Gavrill might in the meantime have changed her mind.
This makes the Lowvelder’s reportage inaccurate. The newspaper has jumped the gun, reporting something that it suspected may happen as if it has happened already.
Gavrill’s statement “soon to be incorporated into the other fraud cases…”
Walker says this statement is untrue.
He is correct – one cannot incorporate something that does not exist into whatever.
Gavrill purchased a car from SWJ Motors
Walker does not deny that Gavrill bought an Aston Martin, but says that it was not bought at SWJ Motors (as the story says). Instead, he says, Gavrill bought the car from AutoSpec (while leaving her Jaguar for AutoSpec to sell for her). He also says that his wife used to be associated with AutoSpec.
Lowvelder says it relied on Source. Although the newspaper did not verify this information, it is not material to the story.
Ms Walker proudly driving the car around
The story says that Ms Walker was “proudly driving” the car around in Nelspruit.
Walker denies this.
The newspaper says it relied on Source and on “many people” who saw her driving this car.
Based on this, the newspaper was justified in stating that Ms Walker was driving the car around. Yet, it would have been better to use the word “allegedly” or to state that people said that they have seen this happen.
However, the statement that she was driving the car “proudly” around clearly is interpretation, dished up as fact.
Applied for finance behind her mother’s back
The story says that Ms Walker applied for vehicle finance without her mother’s knowledge.
Walker does not deny that his wife applied for finance, only that she did this without her mother knowing about it.
The newspaper again says that Source gave it this information.
However, this statement (which is central to the story) is neither verified nor attributed – it is being presented as a fact. Even it if is true that Ms Walker obtained vehicle finance without her mother’s knowledge, it still was up to the newspaper to verify this “fact” – and if it was unable to do so, it should have mentioned this in the story.
The dealership experiencing a cash-flow problem
The story says that a possible motive for Ms Walker having applied for vehicle finance was “to ease cash-flow problems experienced at the dealership at the time”.
Walker denies that any such problems were experienced at the dealership at the time.
The Lowvelder says it based in information on Source, adding that the liquidation application that followed was further proof of this. The newspaper adds that the cash-flow problem was confirmed by “many” former employees who had to wait a long time for their severance packages.
Note that the story does not put it as a fact that cash-flow problems at the dealership were the reason for Ms Walker having applied for vehicle finance – it quotes Source who mentioned that it was “a possible motive”. Therefore, even if Walker is correct on this point, the fact of the matter is that the newspaper only reported on what Source (and other former employees) told it, and it does not state that it was the (only) motive. It is speculation, and it is being presented as speculation.
The newspaper’s reference to the liquidation application as (part of) the justification for the sentence in dispute should also be taken seriously.
Loan paid out, but Walker soon defaulted
The story says that Ms Walker at first “faithfully” paid the monthly installments, “but soon defaulted”.
Walker says this statement is not true.
The newspaper says it based its information on Source.
Again, the story presents this as the truth – without any verification or attribution (as it should have done).
Massive outstanding finance on Gavrill’s name
The story says that Gavrill became liable for the outstanding balance “estimated at close to a million”, adding that while it could not confirm this amount, it “suspects” it to have been considerably more that R1 million.
Walker denies that there was such a “massive” outstanding finance on Gavrill’s name.
This time, Lowvelder is more careful in its wording – the amount of R1 million is not stated as fact, but as an estimated and unconfirmed amount.
“Others” also lost millions at the hands of the Walkers’
The story says that Gavrill is “…only one of numerous others who allegedly lost millions at the hands of the Walkers”.
Walker says there are no such “others”.
The Lowvelder says that “numerous former clients” contacted the newspaper about deals in which they had lost “hundreds of thousand of rand”. It mentions one such person by name, Mr Mamad Goolam. The newspaper says he was forced to obtain a High Court order to get his vehicle back. Our office has documentation from Goolam’s lawyer, dated July 18, 2008 that confirms this.
Note that the story does not state it as a fact that numerous people lost millions at the Walkers’ hands, but states that this is an allegation. There is no reason to believe that such an allegation was never made.
Commercial crime unit awaiting Gavrill’s statement
The story says that the “commercial crime unit” is still awaiting Gavrill’s statement.
Walker says that there is no such unit awaiting Gavrill’s statement.
There is, according to Source that I spoke with.
“Double financing” or “other irregularities” exposed in 2008
The story says that the Walkers made headlines in 2008 when the newspaper exposed “double financing and other irregularities” at the BMW dealership.
Walker denies that the newspaper “exposed” any double financing or other irregularities.
The newspaper provided our office with several of its stories that were published in 2008 with regards to the Walkers.
On August 19, 2008 the newspaper reported that a Mozambican businessman (Goolam) had to turn to the High Court for help in recovering his BMW after a service at SJW. This can be construed as an irregularity. So can another story that reported on former employees who were not paid their severance packages nearly two months after being retrenched. The reference to “other irregularities” is therefore reasonable.
However, there is not a single reference in these stories (pertaining to 2008) to double financing. (On April 9, 2009 the newspaper did report on double financing.) The statement about double financing is therefore not correct.
Application for liquidation in 2008
Walker says the newspaper incorrectly reported that the application for liquidation took place in 2008.
The newspaper admits that it happened in 2009.
Not asked for comment
Walker says that he was not informed that the story would be published and was not asked for comment.
While there is no need to inform anybody that a story is going to be published, Art. 1.5 of the Press Code does state that a publication should usually seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication.
The Lowvelder says that since the Walkers have left town, it has not been able to contact them as they have “changed all contact details and can’t be traced”.
The “changed all contact details”-part is correct, as Walker has confirmed this to me. However, that is not the case with the “and can’t be traced”-part. Walker correctly points out that his attorney, Frans van den Berg, “who had regular dealings with the newspaper”, had all their contact details. He says – and I have reason to believe him – that the newspaper knew that van den Berg represented him, adding that the Marthinusen also had their new details.
The newspaper clearly gave up all too easily and published without making an effort to get hold of them.
This may have caused the Walkers unnecessary harm – especially regarding the statements that Ms Walker applied for finance behind her mother’s back, that she (Ms Walker) soon defaulted on paying the installments and that there was a debt of “considerably more than R 1 million”.
Not only did the Walkers – or their legal representative – not get a chance to comment, but these statements are all presented as fact without any verification or attribution at all. This means that the newspaper has found the Walkers guilty before a court of law has done so. The press should respect a person’s innocence until proven guilty.
Even if these statements may be true, it still was the newspaper’s duty to verify it – and if it was unable to do so, it should have been stated in the story.
The second story
Fraud charges being investigated
The story mentions that several fraud charges are currently being investigated against the Walkers – which he denies.
However, Source confirmed this to me.
In unauthorized possession of firearms
The gist of the story is that Walker is suspected of being in possession of firearms for which he has no authorization.
Walker denies this, saying that that he was left with six rifles from his father-in-law’s estate in 2002. He says he inherited the rifles as per the Final Liquidation & Distribution Account from the executor Mr W. du Toit (from Du Toit Smuts & Mathews Phosa Attorneys in Nelspruit).
The Lowvelder says that its source was Ms Walker’s nephew, Mr Ian Mathinusen, and his sister Lara. The newspaper says according to them, they were the rightful beneficiaries to the estate. The Lowvelder adds that both Mathinusens told it that the rifles had been taken.
To this, Walker replies that the Mathinusens were partly beneficiaries to Beith’s estate.
So let’s take a closer look at what the story says. Both the sub-headline and the second sentence states that Walker was suspected of being in unauthorized possession of firearms. The source of the suspicion, the story says, is the Marthinusens. Nowhere does the story state that he was guilty of this offence.
There is nothing wrong with reporting on what the Marthinusens told the newspaper. The Walkers were very much in the news and the story was newsworthy for the community.
However, we shall come back to this issue under the heading “Not asked for comment”.
Ms Beith
The story says: “Jeanne (Beith) was the sister to Angela Walker’s father Mr Tony Beith.”
Walker says that the deceased Ms Jeanne Beith is his wife’s grandmother – and not her aunt, as the story (twice) states. He also says that his father-in-law’s sister was not Beith, but Julia Nash.
The newspaper admits that it got Beith’s relationship to the Walkers wrong.
Instructions not to allow the Marthinusens access
The story says that, when Beith died, her entire estate was bequeathed to her grandchildren Ian and Lara Marthinusen, “who now claim that they never saw a sent of their inheritance”. Mr Marthinusen reportedly said that the rifles along with two other vehicles were gone by the time they arrived at the house. He also reportedly said that a storage company said it had been told not to give him access to the goods.
Walker says the house in question belonged to his wife and that it was her right to have the items packed up and stored. He says that the Marthinusens were allowed full access to the stored items.
The sentence in dispute is not being presented as the truth, but as Marthinusen’s opinion. There is nothing wrong with publishing his opinion.
Yet, again the Walkers were not asked for comment.
Three grandfather clocks
The story mentions three grandfather clocks (valued at R100 000 each) in the house.
Walker denies this.
Again, the story attributes this statement to Marthinusen. There is nothing wrong with publishing it.
Rifles from Jeanne Beith’s estate
The story says that Jeanne Beith’s licensed rifles were in safekeeping at the Gunshoppe in Nelspruit.
Walker says the rifles were from the Tony Beith’s estate instead.
The newspaper says that local attorney André Pistorius told it that the rifles were part of Jeanne Beith’s estate.
This part of the complaint is not material to the story.
Attempted to sell the rifles on a website
The story says that the rifles were later allegedly signed out by Walker, and that Pistorius had received information that Walker attempted to sell it on a website.
Walker says that he has no knowledge of this.
It is impossible for me to establish it the statement in dispute is true or not.
However, the story does not present this as the truth, but as the evidence of Pistorius.
Not asked for comment
This part of the complaint is materially the same as is the case with the first story.
Walker may have suffered unnecessary harm for not being afforded the opportunity of commenting on the statement that he was suspected of illegally being in possession of firearms, that the Marthinusens were denied access to the house/goods and that there were three grandfather clocks in the house.
Again: Even if these statements are true, it still was the newspaper’s duty to verify it – and not to use the lame excuse that the Walkers could not be traced.
The story also does not state that it was not able to contact them, as it should have (according to the Press Code).
One last thing
Although Walker does not complain about it, it has to be noted that the newspaper twice spells his name “Stewart” instead of “Stuart”.
Finding
 
The first story
Disgraced
It was reasonable for the newspaper to use the word “disgraced”, mainly because of the testimony of Source to whom I spoke. This part of the complaint is dismissed.
Facing another fraud charge
Based on what Source told me, it is reasonable to dismiss this part of the complaint.
Bamboozling yet another client
The sentence does not say the Ms Walker bamboozled another client, but that she was facing a charge for bamboozling. This part of the complaint is dismissed.

Ms Gail Gavrill’s name spelt incorrectly

 

The newspaper admits that it spelt Gavril’s name wrongly. This is in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Press Code that states: “The press shall be obliged to report news…accurately…”
Gavrill confirming the issue mentioned in the intro
The story states as a fact that Gavrill has already made a statement to the effect that she confirmed that she was cheated by her daughter. This is not true or accurate (she may still make such a statement, but by the newspaper’s own admission this has not happened at the time of publication). This is in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Code that states: “The press shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately…”
Gavrill’s statement “soon to be incorporated into the other fraud cases…”
One cannot incorporate something that does not exist into whatever. This is in breach of Art. 1.3 of the Press Code that states: “Only what may reasonably be true…may be presented as fact…”
Gavrill purchased a car from SWJ Motors
This part of the complaint is not material to the story and is therefore dismissed.
Ms Walker proudly driving the car around
Based on the “many people” who allegedly saw Ms Walker driving the car around, the newspaper is given the benefit of the doubt for stating this.
The reference to “proudly”, however, is an unsubstantiated supposition. This is in breach of Art. 1.3 of the Code that states: “…Where a report is not based on facts or is founded on opinions, allegations, rumour or supposition, it shall be mentioned in such report.”
Applied for finance behind her mother’s back
It is not good enough to publish a statement so central to the story without attribution or verification or without stating that it was not practicable to verify it. This is in breach of Art. 1.4 of the Press Code that states: “Where there is reason to doubt the accuracy of a report and it is practicable to verify the accuracy thereof, it shall be verified. Where it has not been practicable to verify the accuracy of a report, this shall be mentioned in such report.”
The dealership experiencing a cash-flow problem
The story does not state as a fact that cash-flow problems at the dealership were the reason for Ms Walker having applied for vehicle finance – it quotes a source who mentioned that it was “a possible motive”. This part of the complaint is dismissed.
Loan paid out, but Walker soon defaulted
Again, the story presents the statement in dispute as the truth – without any verification or attribution. This is in breach of Art. 1.4 of the Press Code.
Massive outstanding finance on Gavrill’s name
The newspaper did qualify this statement, saying that the amount owed could not be confirmed. This part of the complaint is dismissed.
“Others” also lost millions at the hands of the Walkers’
The story does not state it as a fact that numerous people lost millions at the Walkers’ hands, but states that this is an allegation (that is reasonably true). This part of the complaint is dismissed.
Commercial crime unit awaiting Gavrill’s statement
Based on what Source told me, this part of the complaint is dismissed.
“Double financing” or “other irregularities” exposed in 2008
The statement in the story that the newspaper exposed double financing in 2008 is neither true nor accurate. This is in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Code. The “other irregularities”-part of the complaint is dismissed.
Application for liquidation in 2008
The newspaper admits that the application for liquidation happened in 2009. The reportage is therefore inaccurate and in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Code.
Not asked for comment
It is reasonable to accept that the newspaper did not do enough to get hold of the Walkers to obtain comment from them or from their legal representative. This is in breach of Art. 1.5 of the Code that states: “A publication should usually seek the views of the subject of serious critical reportage in advance of publication…”
The story also does not state that it was not able to contact the Walkers. This is in breach of Art. 1.4 that states: “…Where it has not been practicable to verify the accuracy of a report, this shall be mentioned in such report.”
The second story
Fraud charges being investigated
As Source confirmed this to me, this part of the complaint is dismissed.
In unauthorized possession of firearms
The story does not state it as a fact that Walker was illegally in possession of firearms, but only that it was a suspicion. This part of the complaint is dismissed.
Ms Beith
The newspaper got Beith’s relationship with the Walkers wrong. This is in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Press Code.
Instructions not to allow the Marthinusens access
The sentence in dispute only quotes what Marthinusen told the newspaper. This part of the complaint is dismissed.
Three grandfather clocks
The sentence in dispute is being presented as Marthinusen’s opinion. This part of the complaint is dismissed.
Rifles from Jeanne Beith’s estate
This part of the complaint is not material to the story and is dismissed.
Attempted to sell the rifles on a website
The story presents sentence in dispute as the evidence of Pistorius. This part of the complaint is dismissed.
Not asked for comment
This part of the complaint is materially the same as is the case with the first story.
It is reasonable to accept that the newspaper did not do enough to get hold of Walker to obtain comment from them or from their legal representative. This is in breach of Art. 1.5 of the Code that states: “A publication should usually seek the views of the subject of serious critical reportage in advance of publication…”
The story also does not state that it was not able to contact the Walkers. This is in breach of Art. 1.4 that states: “…Where it has not been practicable to verify the accuracy of a report, this shall be mentioned in such report.”
One last thing
The story spells Walker’s name as “Stewart” instead of “Stuart”. This is in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Press Code.
Sanction
The newspaper is directed to publish the following:
Mr Stuart Walker, a former car dealership owner in Nelspruit, lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman about two stories in Lowvelder. The first story was published on October 15, 2010 and is headlined The mother of all fraud accusations; the second story is headlined Yet another twist in the Walker tale – He is now suspected of being in unauthorized possession of firearms (October 19, 2010).
The first story was about “disgraced” former Lowveld socialist and businesswoman Ms Angela Walker, who reportedly was facing a fraud charge for bamboozling her own mother (Ms Gail Gavrill). The second story was about a suspicion that Mr Walker illegally possessed firearms.
Deputy Press Ombudsman Johan Retief found us to be in breach of the Press Code for three main reasons:
Firstly, we did not ask the Walkers for comment with regards to both stories. Retief said this may have caused them unnecessary harm – especially regarding the statements that Ms Walker applied for finance behind her mother’s back, that she (Ms Walker) soon defaulted on paying installments on an Austin Martin car and that there was a debt of “considerably more than R 1 million” (in the first story), as well as that Mr Walker was suspected of illegally being in possession of firearms, that the Marthinusens were denied access to the house and that there were three grandfather clocks in the house (the second story).
Secondly, we were at fault for stating the above-mentioned statements as facts, without any attribution or verification. Retief cautioned us to respect people’s innocence until proven guilty, adding that that we did not state that we were unable able to contact the Walkers (as we should have).
Thirdly, we were found to have published several inaccuracies. We:
  • spelt the surname of Ms Walker’ mother as Mavrill, instead of Gavrill;
  • stated that Gavrill has already made a statement to the effect that she confirmed that she had been cheated by her daughter.
  • stated that “Jeanne (Beith) was the sister to Angela Walker’s father…”
  • twice spelt Mr Stuart Walker’s first name as “Stewart”.
  • said that we had exposed double financing by the Walkers in 2008.
  • stated that the application for the liquidation of the Walker’s business happened in 2009.
Retief said that the reportage that Gavrill’s above-mentioned statement would be incorporated in other fraud cases against her daughter cannot reasonably be true, as one cannot incorporate something that does not exist into anything else.
We also were not justified to report that Ms Walker “proudly” drove the Austin Martin around, presenting a supposition as fact.
However, Retief also dismissed large parts of the complaint. He found that we were justified in reporting that:
  • Ms Walker was “disgraced”;
  • Ms Walker was “facing another fraud charge”;
  • Ms Walker was “bamboozling yet another client”;
  • the Walkers’ dealership experienced a cash-flow problem;
  • the suspected amount that Ms Walker owed was in access of R1 million;
  • “others” also lost millions at the hands of the Walkers;
  • a commercial Police crime unit was awaiting Gavrill’s statement;
  • we had exposed “other irregularities” regarding the Walkers in 2008;
  • fraud charges were being investigated against the Walkers;
  • Mr Walker was suspected of illegally possessing firearms;
  • the Marthinusens were not allowed access to a house;
  • there were three grandfather clocks in the house; and
  • Mr Walker attempted to sell rifles on the internet;
Retief emphasized that, while we were justified in reporting the above, it does not necessarily mean that these statements are true.
We were reprimanded us for the above-mentioned breaches of the Code.
We apologise for causing possible unnecessary harm to the Walkers.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za (rulings, 2010) for the full finding.

 

 
Appeal
Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, anyone of the parties may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Ralph Zulman, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be reached at khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.
Johan Retief
Deputy Press Ombudsman