New voices of police conscience emerge in Timol inquest
“WE can only hope that the conscience of at least some of them (the security branch of the police) will lead them to reveal the truth, before they are buried like their victims,” Advocate George Bizos wrote in his book No one to Blame on the death of political detainee Ahmed Timol in police custody in 1971.
This hope may materialise, as several former security police officers have taken Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, Judge Billy Mothle up on his plea for anyone with information relating to the death of Timol from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square Police Station, to come forward.
Dr Torie Pretorius, leading the team acting for the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), this week told the court they had been contacted by various potential new witnesses, including former security police officers, who were keen on assisting the court.
Judge Mothle said his office was also contacted by former officers who had responded to his plea.
Pretorius and his team will work throughout the weekend to consult these people to see whether they could contribute to the inquest.
He told the court some of the witnesses were afraid to testify, but he said it was important to listen to them.
If they take the stand next week, it will mean the second leg of the inquest relating to the hearing of evidence will be extended to Wednesday.
Evidence before the court was due to conclude this week, but Judge Mothle said he would extend the hearing for a few days if hearing these witnesses would be fruitful.
The magistrate who heard the inquest in 1972 concluded no one was to blame and that Timol had committed suicide. He accepted the evidence from police that Timol was not assaulted prior to his death.
Timol’s younger brother Mohammed Timol and Bizos were the only two people who had attended that inquest and who are now in court, attending the second leg of the inquest after 45 years.
Mohammed said he believed the truth will now emerge for the first time.
But there were still many questions, such as when exactly did Timol plunge to his death – during the morning as claimed by two witnesses or in the afternoon, as claimed by the police.
A pathologist who was recalled to the witness stand to unravel the mystery, was unable to say whether it was morning or afternoon.
Dr Steve Naidoo said it was equally possible that Timol could have plunged to his death mid- morning or mid- afternoon.
Abdulla Adam, now 70, who was working at the petrol station across the road from John Vorster Square in 1971, when Timol fell, was adamant it happened around 10am that morning.
“I am certain of the time, because 10am was tea time. Tea time was very important to me,” he told the court.
Adam said his former boss witnessed the fall from his office, which looked out on John Vorster Square. But he has passed away.
A previous witness who was filling his car with petrol at the time, also placed the time of the fall during mid-morning.
While the answers to many of these questions may have gone to the grave, the Timol family is pinning their hopes that this week might bring some answers and the closure they have hoped for over the past 46 years.
Judge Billy Mothle at the inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol, Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.