Former security branch police officer accused of misleading the 1982 Aggett Inquest
The lawyer for Neil Aggett’s family says a four-page statement in which the anti-apartheid activist allegedly implicated his comrades in illegal activities is a security branch fabrication to cover up their role in his death.
Howard Varney has been challenging former security branch police officer, Petrus Woensdregt, on his evidence at the Aggett inquest, which is being conducted virtually.
Woensdregt was among the officers who interrogated Aggett a few days before he was found hanging in his cell at the then John Vorster Square Police Station in Johannesburg in February 1982.
The security branch had claimed he committed suicide, but Aggett’s family believes he was murdered.
Aggett interrogator might again ‘emerge unscathed’
27 Jan 2021 News
Joseph Woensdrecht was one of the security police officers who interrogated activist Neil Aggett in his final days, but says he had nothing to do with his death.
Joseph Petrus Woensdrecht is a large man, a little hard of hearing and with the gruffness of manner that marks him as a man more used to asking questions than answering them. He celebrated his 71st birthday on Monday 25 January in the boardroom of the Cape Town offices of law firm Webber Wentzel. Here, he answered questions about what he described as a brief moment almost 40 years ago, when his path crossed that of Neil Aggett’s for a few hours on the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station. This was on 30 January 1982, five days before Aggett was found dead, hanged in his cell.
DEATH IN APARTHEID DETENTION
‘Hardened cop’ was ‘untouched’ by death in police cell of ‘intelligent, softly spoken’ Neil Aggett
A second police officer concedes in court that Neil Aggett did not seem a suicide risk. He also reveals secret oaths and codes that Security Branch officers had to swear to uphold.
Another Covid-19 delay at the NPA offices with no contingency plans in place means Wednesday’s sitting in the reopened Neil Aggett inquest has had to be scrapped. The hearings are now behind schedule and costs to taxpayers are mounting.
Over the past two days proceedings have already stuttered along with to-ing and froing to accommodate inept translations and technical glitches. These are frustrations but there’s the bigger question of just how competently justice is being served. It’s the delays, but also that ex-Security Branch police officers (whose legal representation and expenses are paid for by taxpayers) get to answer to a screen instead of under scrutiny of a live and public court sitting.