Audi Mechanic Commits Suicide After Coworkers Reportedly Set Him on Fire

Reportedly, the pranking and hazing went too far.

via Getty Images

It's not unheard of for "the new kid" to go through hazing, whether it be at a new school, a new job, or some form of environment. Some may call it a right of passage, others may call it dangerous due to its implications. In one case in Great Britain, the cruel actions taken against one individual are alleged to be part of the reason an employee at an Audi dealership took his own life.

In February 2014, 18-year-old George Cheese enlisted in the British Army to become a mechanic. Shortly after, he was forced to resign to due forming stress fractures in both of his legs. In 2015, Cheese applied for job at a Berksire UK Audi dealership and was promptly hired on as an apprentice mechanic. The Guardian reports that Cheese's parents, Keith and Purdy, stated that George was "over the moon" with getting the job—he would be able to follow his dream of becoming a mechanic.

Nobody is truly prepared for hazing, it can be harsh and thoughtless towards those it affects. But what happened to Cheese surpasses cruel and borderlines on the definition of physical and mental abuse.

Eventually, George reportedly starting coming home with bruises. This is not too out of the ordinary for a mechanic; even most hobbyist mechanics will end their tango with their project somewhat bloodied and beaten. Soon, his parents had reportedly noticed holes burned into his clothes—and shortly thereafter became aware of the extent of abuse.

It was not bullying.

-Simon Wright, line manager

It was reported that George told his parents that on one occasion, his coworkers had forced him into a cage at the garage where they soaked him in some flammable liquid and promptly set him ablaze. His manager allegedly witnessed the incident, at which point the manager laughed and walked away.

The Telegraph reports:

He said that several of the things he had done to George, such as locking him in the boot of a car and hosing him down with a pressure cleaner, were things most of the apprentices were subjected to and that they would always be laughing at the end.

The dealership's manager, Terry Kindeleit, giving evidence at the inquest, told the coroner that some of the pranks were "in response to George's behaviour such as being cheeky or lippy"

Reportedly, his mother noticed a decline in his mental health and his father suggested George quit his job. George was also prescribed an antidepressant by his doctor at one point. The abuse from his colleagues continued when they became aware of his treatment, reportedly making comments such as "Take your happy pills George, you’re going to need them." Per The Telegraph, George had arranged to see a counselor, but had not yet been seen.

According to the news reports, George eventually attempted to overdose on his medication. His mother reportedly believed that this was a way to keep himself from going to work, not a suicide attempt. After George's passing, his parents later said they realized George's illness went much further than they had previously believed.

After Cheese's death, his belongings were taken by police for investigation, who said they found calendar entries saved on George's iPad with dates for specific incidents. One such incident described his supervisor suggesting he commit suicide, the text reading "My boss told me to hurry up and hang myself." Another described an incident where a coworker had tied George up, hosed him down with a pressure washer until he couldn't stand until he was eventually forced him to walk home after laughing and verbally abusing him.

George's parents reportedly place blame for his demise on the Audi dealership because of the abuse. Peter Bedford, Berkshire's senior coroner, said he believes that although it may have played a factor, it was not the sole reason for George's passing, after examining evidence found on his iPad. 

The Reading Chronicle reports the following statement from Bedford: "There was a spectrum of reasons behind George's tragic actions. I refuse to record that negligence, on the part of the Audi garage, was to blame"

Audi has issued the following statement on the incident.

At Audi UK, we remain deeply saddened by the tragic death of George Cheese in 2015 and wish to reiterate our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

The inquest heard very personal and painful accounts of events leading to George’s death encompassing all aspects of his life, including his time working for Sytner at its dealership in Reading. We are very sorry for the huge loss felt by all those so tragically affected.

The inquest concluded that a number of factors contributed to George’s death. However, we want to make it clear that both Audi UK and Sytner absolutely condemn any behaviour which is detrimental to the well-being of employees in any of our franchises.

Management at the dealership has reportedly worked with employees to improve conditions since Cheese's passing.

To reach the 24-hour US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1 (800) 273-8255, or chat live with them. For residents of the UK, the Samaritans offer the same service by calling 116 123.