26 July 2017

Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust


Forensic pathologists to outline extent of pre-fall injuries

Forensic pathologists are expected to testify today that Ahmed Timol suffered multiple injuries in detention before falling from a 10th floor window while under security police interrogation 46 years ago.

The evidence that Professor Steve Naidoo and Dr Shakeera Holland present to the re-opened Timol inquest will challenge the finding of the original inquest that Timol was well-treated by police, and that all the injuries he suffered were incurred in his suicidal fall.

Timol, a member of the South African Communist Party actively involved in the anti-apartheid struggle, died on 27 October 1971 four days after being arrested at a police roadblock.

He was the 22nd of 73 activists who died in police custody between 1963 and 1990. In none of these matters have any members of the police ever brought to justice.

One of Timol’s oldest friends, former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, told Judge Billy Mothle yesterday that the police story that members of the Communist Party were under instructions to commit suicide to avoid revealing information to police was a lie.

Pahad dismissed the possibility of Timol committing suicide on three grounds:

  • Timol was madly in love with a woman in England;
  • As a devout Muslim, from a devout family, he knew that taking his own life would preclude his being buried in a Muslim cemetery; and
  • They had specifically discussed appropriate responses to detention and torture and ruled out suicide as an option.

Pahad said shortly before Timol’s return to South Africa from England to engage in underground activities, he and Timol had a detailed conversation about torture and deaths in detention

They discussed how the security police were responding to the death of detainees by concocting absurd stories such as prisoners’ slipping on a bar of soap.

“We discussed that Timol would never commit suicide,” Pahad said.

Activists were aware of the systemic torture of detainees by police, he said: “We knew a lot of people who had been tortured.”

Pahad said they had discussed that it was not treacherous to break under torture. The important thing for the anti-apartheid movement was that if you did break down and give information you tried to limit the information, and hold out as long as possible to give comrades time to hide.

“In my view Timol was ready to be imprisoned,” Pahad said.

Testifying before Pahad, distinguished trauma surgeon Prof Kenneth Boffard told the court what medical protocols police should have used after Timol’s 10th floor fall.

While the police were ill-equipped to deal with medical trauma in the 1970s, it was already well-known that patients suffering spine and neck injuries should not be moved as this could worsen their condition.

Timol was not put in neck brace. He was not left still in the coma position to await the arrival of medical assistance. He was not rolled onto a stiff board when moved. And his air passages were not unblocked.

Instead, his body was rolled onto a blanket and carried into the foyer of the police station. When police could not locate a pulse in the foyer, they carried the body to the 9th Floor.

Professor Boffard said he was surprised police elected to move Timol after the fall. At the time, police were reluctant to offer first-aid of any kind in case they were held liable for further injuries.

Professor Boffard said he believes Timol’s injuries after the fall were probably fatal, but his post-trauma treatment may have hastened the death.

He added that his study of the post-mortem documents had revealed a number of injuries that appeared to have been incurred prior to the fall. The spinal injuries appear to have been caused by the fall, but in his view there were some pre-mortem injuries as well, specially bruising and possibly fractures.

Forensic pathologists were better qualified than he, a trauma specialist, to analyse the pattern and timing of the injuries, he said.




The State agreed to re-open the Timol Inquest after investigation by the family revealed new evidence. The inquest is being held in Court 2D at the Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria. Proceedings start at 10am. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

The Timol family is assisted by the South African non–profit Foundation on Human Rights (FHR); Advocate Howard Varney, a senior program adviser with The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICT), law firm Webber Wentzel, the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), and super-sleuth, Frank Dutton, among others.

Those wishing to monitor proceedings electronically can do so at, on Facebook or on Twitter @ahmed_timol1971.

The Ahmed Timol Exhibition at the Ditsong Museum (149 Visagie Street) will run until 22 September. Entrance costs R15 for children and R32 for adults. The Museum is open Monday to Friday between 8am and 4pm.

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


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