McCully 'privately' advised of driver swap

By Adam Bennett

Foreign Minister Murray McCully and his department were advised former Bethlehem College student David Fellows was behind the wheel of a van which crashed on a Kenyan highway killing three other New Zealanders and a local man at least 24 hours before the school went public with the information this week.

The Tauranga school revealed yesterday that 18-year old Mr Fellows was driving the vehicle carrying 16 group members along the Nairobi-Murang'a highway when it lost control and rolled into a ditch nearly two weeks ago.

Those killed were New Zealanders Brian and Grace Johnston and Caitlin Dickson, 19, and the college group's Kenyan driver, Christopher Mmata, who was initially thought to be at the wheel.

Mr McCully this afternoon told reporters he'd been "privately'' advised some time immediately before the school's announcement that additional information about who was driving was about to come out.

"A member of the public told me that he understood there was some developments that the Government wasn't aware of and that he thought that we would hear formally from the school and that seemed to be a real prospect and so I told the ministry that I'd received this indication that they should expect to see something from the school in due course.''

A Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman told the Herald the ministry was made aware of the driver swap on Monday this week.

Bethlehem College board of trustees chairman Greg Hollister-Jones said the school told Mfat Mr Fellows was the driver on Monday afternoon, about the same time it advised the police.

Mr McCully said it was up to the school to decide when it released the information about Mr Fellows and the Government was not part of any "cover-up''.

He said the school had "taken great care to behave appropriately in quite a difficult situation''.

The Government was waiting to see whether Kenyan authorities would seek the extradition of Mr Fellows under Commonwealth protocols.

"It would be a matter for the New Zealand authorities to consider when they receive a request and I wouldn't want to get ahead of them in that respect.''

- NZ Herald

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- Bay of Plenty Times

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