26 July 2017

Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust


Timol severely assaulted prior to his death

Forensic pathologists Professor Steve Naidoo and Dr Shakeera Holland have blown gaping holes in the security police version of the events that led to the death in detention of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol 46 years ago.

At the behest of the Timol family, the two specialists separately reviewed all available literature from the original Timol Inquest, including the post-mortem report and series of photographs attached thereto. They presented their reports today to the re-opened inquest sitting in the North Gauteng High Court.

Both concluded that Timol sustained major injuries before falling to the ground from a 10th floor window at John Vorster Square police station 4 days after being arrested.

The police version of events, endorsed by Magistrate De Villiers who presided over the first inquest, was that Timol had been well treated while in custody, and was drinking a cup of coffee in the company of a Sergeant Joao Rodriguez when he unexpectedly jumped from the window – so quickly, that Rodriguez had no time to stop him.

But Professor Naidoo, former Chief Specialist and Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, said in his opinion Timol had been so severely assaulted that he would have found it “immensely difficult” to climb onto the windowsill.

It was not unlikely that Timol was unconscious, or slipping in and out of consciousness, when he fell from the window.

“Could the deceased have clambered up to the window ledge in the condition he was in? I believe this is immensely difficult to do with a likely left ankle fracture-dislocation and severe injury to the right calf muscles (plus the other bodily injuries which, although skin injuries, the significant somatic effects of these must be borne in mind).

“Generally, if he had to have tried to heave himself up to the ledge, he might have required to clamber up onto the chair or the adjacent heater panel and this would have required the necessary time interval for an injured person to execute.”

Dr Holland, attached to the Gauteng Health Department and the University of the Witwatersrand, has conducted between 4000 and 5000 post-mortems.

She listed a plethora of bruises, scabs, contusions, abrasions and fractures that she said could not be associated with the fall. These included a depressed skull fracture that may have rendered him unconscious, three jaw fractures and broken nose – injuries that would have made drinking coffee virtually impossible. The extent of the bruising on Timol’s legs would have made it difficult for him to stand.

She concluded that: “The multiple injuries that were present on the body of the deceased which could not be ascribed to the fall from a height indicate that the deceased sustained physical assault while in police custody prior to his death.

“This finding calls into question the conclusion of the original Inquest process that the manner of death was ‘suicide’ (and) therefore this finding must be challenged,” Dr Holland said.

* Sergeant Rodriguez is one of seven former members of the security police subpoenaed to give evidence to the inquest. He is expected to appear next week. Yesterday, Advocate Adrian Thompson, a member of Rodriguez’s legal team, indicated to Judge Mothle that he would be bringing an application to delay Rodriguez’s until the court is able to furnish his client with a full record of the original inquest. The full document appears to be “lost” or “missing”.

** The State agreed to re-open the Timol inquest after the family launched its own investigation and unearthed new evidence.

For more information please call Benny Gool on 082 5566 556 or Roger Friedman on 0798966 899.

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