Fake engineer's qualification stripped

MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Last updated 10:58 27/11/2012
Gerald Shirtcliff
Dean Kozanic

VIDEO LINK APPEARANCE: Gerald Shirtcliff says he had "limited involvement" in the CTV building's construction.

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The fake engineer who supervised the construction of the CTV building has been stripped of his final qualification.

An investigation in September revealed Gerald Shirtcliff, 67, had stolen the identity of English engineer William Fisher, and used Fisher's Bachelor of Engineering degree to gain entry to New South Wales University in Sydney in 1972.

Shirtcliff, under the name William Fisher, obtained a Masters in Highway Engineering in 1974 by which time he was working as an engineer and had become a member of Engineers Australia, again using the Fisher name and degree.

A spokeswoman for the University of New South Wales last week said its investigation into allegations against Shirtcliff had been completed.

''UNSW has notified Mr Gerald Shirtcliff, otherwise known as William Fisher, that it has revoked the degree of Master of Engineering Science in Highway Engineering awarded to William Fisher on 17 April 1974,'' she said in a statement.

The revocation follows Engineers Australia cancelling Shirtcliff's membership and referring his alleged fraud to the Australian Federal Police.

New Zealand police are also investigating Shirtcliff, who told the Royal Commission of the Inquiry into the Canterbury Earthquakes he was a ''graduate engineer''.

He testified he had little to do with the construction of the CTV building although other witnesses said he should have visited the site as frequently as once a day.

Stephen Durkin, chief executive officer of Engineers Australia, said his organisation had given Shirtcliff an opportunity to respond to the allegations before his membership was cancelled.

Shirtcliff, who claims to have worked in senior positions on large engineering projects in Australia including an 81-metre flagpole on Parliament House and a 33-storey Kings Cross building, had not responded, he said.

At the time he was exposed Shirtcliff was working as an engineer for multi-national engineering companies in Brisbane where he is living.

He was sacked immediately.

The CTV building was finished in about October 1987. It collapsed on February 22 last year, taking the lives of 115 people, when Christchurch was hit by a magnitude-6.3 earthquake. It had a number of serious construction defects.

Shirtcliff worked with English engineer William Fisher in South Africa in 1968/69. During the investigation Shirtcliff provided Fisher's degree from the University of Sheffield to the newspaper and claimed it was his own.

In fact he never attended the University of Sheffield and was not in England at the time. Shirtcliff completed a thesis on highway construction at UNSW and his lawyers offered it as evidence he was a genuine engineer.

It is understood Shirtcliff was assisted in his thesis by his Christchurch-based father who was a world authority on bitumen due to his management roles with Shell Oil.

Shirtcliff maintained he had changed his name to Fisher because his father had abused him although this was denied by his family.

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- The Press

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