Timol was murdered
There was prima facie evidence implicating three apartheid-era police officers in the murder of activist Ahmed Timol, a Pretoria High Court judge said in a landmark ruling on Thursday.
Judge Billy Mothle found that the 1972 inquest, which accepted the police's claim
that Timol committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station in the Johannesburg CBD, was part of a cover-up. He found that Timol had been murdered.
Mothle found that Timol was pushed from the 10th floor or roof of the building with the clear intention to kill him and there was prima facie evidence implicating police captains Hans Gloy and Fanie van Niekerk.
The judge said the two were "on duty and interrogating Timol at the time he was pushed to fall to his death".
Mothle said it was regrettable that the court had to deal with the "mysterious" disappearance of that part of the 1972 inquest record dealing with the evidence of the police officers, in particular page 3 of the affidavit of former police sergeant Joao Rodrigues.
The judge said this evidence, according to the 1972 inquest magistrate's judgment, explained how Timol fell.
"Consequently, the key police witnesses who would have been called to testify again in regard to the events preceding the fall were not available. It is, therefore, important for the future that the state ensures that the records of inquests are preserved, considering the fact that the [Inquest] Act provides for reopening without any limitation as to time," Mothle said.
"Rodrigues, in his own version, participated in the cover-up to conceal the crime of murder as an accessory-after-the-fact, and went on to commit perjury by presenting contradictory evidence before the 1972 and 2017 inquests. He should accordingly be investigated with a view to his prosecution."
Rodrigues is the only one of the three implicated police officers still alive.
The judge said there were many more families seeking closure on unanswered questions regarding the demise of their loved ones while in apartheid police detention. He said such families should be helped to obtain information that might justify the reopening of the apartheid-era inquest.