‘Batchelor was my bud’: arrested PI breaks his silence

Private investigator Jean Cotton, a close friend of murdered soccer hero turned debt collector Marc Batchelor. Cotton was initially arrested for defeating the ends of justice for being in possession of Batchelor's alleged phone. All charges against him were dropped.
Private investigator Jean Cotton, a close friend of murdered soccer hero turned debt collector Marc Batchelor. Cotton was initially arrested for defeating the ends of justice for being in possession of Batchelor's alleged phone. All charges against him were dropped.
Image: Alon Skuy

The Johannesburg private investigator arrested in connection with the alleged theft of the cellphone of slain soccer hero turned “bad boy” debt collector Marc Batchelor, has broken his silence.

Jean Cotton, speaking to Times Select on the fringes of Batchelor’s funeral in Midrand on Thursday, slammed his arrest, which he described as “sickening”.

“My lawyers are preparing to litigate against the police for what they did to me. Marc was one of my best mates. He had come to me for [financial] help when those who were closest to him had abandoned him. Why would I do anything to harm the investigation into his death?” he said.

Cotton, who was taken in for questioning at the weekend by Gauteng Organised Crime Unit detectives for allegedly being possession of Batchelor’s cellphone, was released on Monday after all charges against him were dropped.

Earlier this week police claimed that data had been deleted from the cellphone, which had been removed from the murder scene.

Batchelor was gunned down in the driveway of his Olivedale home on Monday 15 July by two gunmen on a motorbike. His gardener, Pexy Nyirongo, who was with him, escaped injury, while his dog, Dakota, was seriously wounded.

Warren Batchelor comforts his brother's gardener, Pexy Nyirongo, before the funeral.
Warren Batchelor comforts his brother's gardener, Pexy Nyirongo, before the funeral.
Image: Alon Skuy

Cotton, speaking as dozens of mourners, including Batchelor’s business associates and fellow Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates players, filed out of The Crossing Church on Thursday, said he had no idea why anyone would want to murder Batchelor.

“The cops have got phones, but are they Marc’s? No one can say. They have the phone of a friend’s of Marc’s, which I was holding for him at the scene, while he was talking to someone, which I gave to the cops shortly before they arrested me.

“If I had Marc’s phone, why was I released with no charges against me? They have my phone, which I said they can download to see what was on it and who I had been chatting to. They still have it.

“What happened to Batch is sinister. I have no idea of the motive. No one does. He had come to me for help and I was trying to get him right. Lots of people had turned on him and he was having a lot of fallouts. I’m not sure what they were about.”

Batchelor’s friends, family and pastor, in praising the kindness and love he had for people, said he had been bad.

“I am not saying he was good. He was bad. He was fully aware of this. But, then again, none of us are perfect,” said Batchelor's pastor, Tony Sivewright, as photographs and videos of a smiling Batchelor played on a projection screen inside the church.

With mourners, including his fiancée Chere Gray, fighting back tears, Sivewright described how he had been helping Batchelor, who was a bad boy, to reconcile with those who he “had had beefs with”.

“Some reconciliations worked. Some, however, did not. Most Sundays when Marc was at church he would, after the service, ask for prayer and mercy.

“Today he is at peace. There is no more hustling.”

Marc Batchelor's fiancee Chere Gray walks ahead of his casket.
Marc Batchelor's fiancee Chere Gray walks ahead of his casket.
Image: Alon Skuy

Warren Batchelor said his brother was “no angel”.

“Over the past few years he lost his way and went down the wrong path. We ourselves were estranged over some stupid argument, although we were on the verge of reconciliation.”

Revealing how he had recently learnt his brother had Huntington’s disease, a debilitating and progressive brain disorder which causes emotional and cognitive problems,  Warren said: “I am not making excuses for him, but it explains a lot.”

Warren said that when he finally left the crime scene he knew he and his brother had reconciled.

“When I kissed his forehead I knew that his demons had finally left him alone. Marc, fly with the angels, you are now free,” he said, fighting back tears.

Batchelor’s close friend, Archie Henson, slammed his murder.

“I am angry. It is unacceptable. He didn’t deserve to go this way, and I hope they are caught and punished.”

He said it could be seen by some that Batchelor had changed over time and had made bad choices through the company he kept and his business dealings.

“I asked him about his choices. He said they were because of financial reasons. He hated asking for help and said he had to do what he was doing, but that it was only temporary. He told me he had some great deals and that his plan was to buy land and move from Johannesburg with his fiancée, his dogs and his friend.

“Today, unfortunately, we are saying goodbye to a great friend, a good son and a fragile human being.”

X