Timol: Was it murder or suicide?
That is the question the inquest judge must decide over the next month
IT WILL take a month for the judge overseeing the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol to rule whether it was suicide or murder.
Judge Billy Mothle said he had a mountain of paperwork to go through and he would likely make his decision next month.
Closing arguments into the Timol inquest were made on Thursday at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
Advocate Johannes Coetzee, who is representing the policemen implicated in Timol’s death, argued that evidence indicating that Timol had multiple injuries which he sustained prior his demise was based on speculation. “The pictures were not of good quality and were faded,” said Coetzee.
Two independent pathologist told the court that Timol had injuries, which were not consistent with a fall from a height.
One of the pathologists said Timol had a severe injury on his ankle, which would have made it impossible for him to walk without assistance, and couldn’t have jumped out of the window unless assisted.
Coetzee dismissed these findings as conjecture and said both pathologists’ evidence was not based on facts.
“The court must look at the ver- acity of evidence,” implored Coetzee.
In 1972 – four-and-a-half decades ago – Timol’s death was ruled as suicide by magistrate JL de Villiers. The South African Communist Party (SACP) member was said to have jumped out of the 10th floor of the John Vorster Square police station in 1971. The infamous station, where many anti-apartheid activists were tortured, has since been renamed the Johannesburg Central police station.
However, Coetzee argued that suicide shouldn’t be the only inference drawn in the matter. He said it was possible that Timol jumped in an attempt to escape. He asked the court to make an inconclusive finding regarding the matter.
The judge explained that in the case of assault he won’t be speculating as evidence was clear on that part. But he admitted he had difficulty accepting testimony that security branch policemen only knew of torture at John Vorster through media reports.
Timol was arrested with his friend Dr Salim Essop after the car they were travelling in was found with banned ANC and SACP literature.
Essop testified during the first phase of the inquest and he told the court he was severely assaulted during his arrest and was near death when he was taken to hospital.
Timol’s family has always rejected the suicide finding, insisting instead that theactivist was murdered by apartheid police.
For years family members have fought to have the inquest re-opened. Timol died six days shy of his 30th birthday.
On Thursday the family’s legal representative, Howard Varney, asked the court to dismiss the version of the policemen on events leading to Timol’s death.
Varney told the court two former security branch policemen, Neville Els and Seth Sons, should be investigated for perjury. They worked at John Vorster Square police station around the time of Timol’s death, testified that they had never witnessed any assaults on detainees, but had read newspaper reports about the dastardly deeds.
Varney said the court must find that Timol did not commit suicide and that he was in fact murdered while in police custody. – ANA
The pictures were not of good quality and were faded
Timol family lawyer Advocate Howard Varney at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.