Timol pushed from 10th floor, judge finds
THE 2017 reopened inquest into anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol’s death has revealed a number of lessons to be learnt, including that branches of state had to ensure that respect for human rights and dignity should never be crossed.
This was the message of Judge Billy Mothle during his 129-page judgment delivered in the Pretoria High Court yesterday.
The inquest was the first of its kind in the country.
The judge found that Timol did not commit suicide 46 years ago when he fell from the notorious John Vorster Square Police Station in Johannesburg.
He concluded that Timol was either pushed from the 10th floor of the building or from the rooftop.
Judge Mothle found that the then Special Branch police officers who interrogated Timol at the time were collectively responsible for his death and should be held accountable.
“Timol did not jump… he was pushed and thus he did not commit suicide, but was murdered,” the judge said. The act was committed through dolus eventualis – that his interrogators should have foreseen that he could die – and, on the face of it, it amounted to murder, the judge found.
Judge Mothle said there was prima facie evidence implicating security policemen Hans Gloy and Johannes van Niekerk. But both had since died.
Jan Rodrigues, the officer who claimed to have been there when Timol fell out of the window, had to be investigated with a view to prosecuting him on a charge of perjury and being an accessory after the fact, Judge Mothle said.
“Rodrigues, on his own version, participated in the cover-up to conceal the crime of murder as an accessory after the fact. He went on to commit perjury by presenting contradictory evidence before the 1972 and 2017 inquests,” the judge said.
It was the view of the court that the families whose relatives died in detention, particularly those where the inquest findings were death by suicide, should be assisted in their initiative to obtain the records and gather further information to have the initial inquests reopened.
The judge said the Human Rights Commission, working with law-enforcement agencies, should be sufficiently resourced to take on this task.
Timol, a teacher, was 29 when he was arrested in a roadblock on October 22, 1971. He was interrogated and tortured by members of the security police for days on end, until his death on October 27.
His interrogation was conducted by Gloy and Van Niekerk. On the day Timol died, it was their turn to interrogate him in the feared Room 1026.
Three independent witnesses put the time of death in the morning, while Rodrigues stuck to his guns that it was in the afternoon.
The court accepted that Timol fell during the morning and that Rodrigues was brought in, in the afternoon, to legitimise the cover-up. Judge Mothle concluded that the finding of the 1972 inquest was wrong.