Timol’s injuries too severe for jump from window, say experts
TWO forensic pathologists who testified in the Ahmed Timol inquest agreed that he had suffered such severe injuries while in detention at John Vorster Square that it would have been impossible for him to have flung himself out of the window.
Unless he was assisted out of the window, it would have been impossible for Timol in his state to climb on to the window sill and jump out, Prof Steve Naidoo told the high court in Pretoria yesterday.
He and Dr Shakeera Holland agreed that Timol had suffered a massive depressed skull fracture prior to falling out of the window. This alone would have rendered him in and out of consciousness. Naidoo detected a further severe fracture to Timol’s left ankle – suffered while in detention – which would have also made it impossible for him to walk, let alone climb on to the high ledge.
“In his state, he would have certainly not been able to sit up or walk,” Naidoo pointed out.
The two experts took the stand during the second leg of the inquest into the death of Timol, 46 years ago.
The security police at the time maintained that Timol had committed suicide four days after his arrest, by jumping out of the window of room 1026 – labelled the “truth room”.
A magistrate who presided over the inquest in the 1970s agreed with this. The Timol family, however, asked for the reopening of the inquest as they did not believe he had committed suicide.
According to the police, Timol had been treated well and was drinking a cup of coffee in the company of Sergeant Joao Rodriguez when he unexpectedly jumped from the window. It was so quick that Rodriguez had no time to stop him, the police claimed.
But the two experts said apart from the fractured skull, which would have rendered him incapacitated, he also had a shattered jaw. This would have rendered him unable to talk, let alone have coffee.
Naidoo said he visited room 1026 this week and it was 2m by by 6m in size. Rodriguez was a big man, he said, and he could have simply reached out and stopped Timol if he tried to jump out of the window.
Holland and Naidoo both came to the same findings after studying the 1971 post-mortem reports following Timol’s death that year. Naidoo, however, made an additional finding that Timol had suffered a massive lower leg fracture. This injury, he said, could have been caused by something like an iron rod.
Both Holland and Naidoo said based on their medical expertise and after studying his injuries, they too, did not believe it was suicide.
Holland said several of the injuries were caused before his fall and these should be explained by his captors.
Naidoo said of the listed 35 injuries which Timol had suffered, only about 10 were related to his fall. The rest were injuries across his body on areas which would not have been impacted by the fall. He attributed these injuries to blunt force trauma meted out before the fall.
Holland demonstrated by means of a plastic brain that the skull bone is very thick and it would need severe blunt force trauma to shatter it.
This would not have been consistent with a fist blow, she said, agreeing that it would be consistent with a person lying on the ground and being kicked with a steeled boot.
Timol also had a number of facial injuries, including a fractured jaw and nose. These injuries could have been caused by blows or punches to the face, she said.
He also had a number of bruises to his upper legs and groin area, consistent with repeated “mule” kicking. This would have hampered his walking or moving about, Holland said.
Another severe injury not caused in her opinion by the fall, was the fracture of the first rib. This rib, she explained, was located in a protected area and it would take severe force to break it.
Both Naidoo and Holland also detected a vast number of
He was already unconscious and unable to walk
bruises and lacerations across Timol’s body, which were between four to six days old – thus suffered before the fall.
Both were of the opinion that Timol was still alive after the fall, but that he passed away shortly afterwards.
The inquest continues.