Ahmed Timol's time of death now under dispute

This after witness testifies that he remembers it having happened in morning 46 years ago

P2-#TimolInquest: Key witness to face more questions on Timol’s time of death

Pretoria - Former security branch police sergeant, Joao Jan Roderigues, will be re-examined in the Ahmed Timol inquest that is being heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Judge Billy Mothle on Friday said the court is going to recall Roderigues in order to determine the exact time of Timol's death at John Vorster police station.

Mothle said forensic pathologists would also be called back to give their insights into the time of death.

Roderigues’ testimony came into dispute after a witness testified on Thursday that Timol died in the morning. It was initially testified that Timol was barely alive when he fell from the 10th floor of the 13-storey building.

The version put forward by Roderigues is that Timol’s death occurred in the late afternoon. A story he has maintained since 1971 when Timol died.

Muhammad Ali Thokan, a businessman, told the court on Thursday that he was certain that the death occurred in the morning as he was on his way to a government department in Pretoria to get his trading licence.

A loud thud

"When I was at the petrol station I heard a loud thud. I looked around to see what had caused the noise but its exact location was not clear. A few seconds later I heard a pedestrian‚ who was walking down Commissioner Street‚ exclaim that a person had fallen from John Vorster Square‚" said Thokan.

When Mothle quizzed him on his certainty about the time, he explained that he specifically remembered that the incident occurred in the morning because during the apartheid era, there were time bars which restricted him from being on the streets after certain hours.

Roderigues was and remains a key witness to the case as the 1972 inquest was centered around his testimony.

Mothle pointed out that he would also extend the subpoena - until August 11- of another witness, who refused to cooperate, so that he could testify. The man, Ahmed Adam, was a bookkeeper at Dollars petrol station - a petrol station across the road from John Vorster police station that no longer exists - where Thokan filled up with petrol before heading to Pretoria.

Crucial testimony

The judge said that if the witness doesn’t come forward, he will be arrested as his testimony is crucial at this stage, adding that every attempt must be made to secure his attendance.

“It has come to my attention that the evidence of this person here has become critical in light of the question of the timing of the death of Mr Timol. That he is one of the … eye witnesses who was working at a filling station nearby, and who can assist us in terms of the time of death,” said Mothle.

On Thursday, Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee said that if the court found that Roderigues had fabricated evidence, then he should face the full might of the law. Although Cajee was due to testify on Friday morning, he humbly asked to give his testimony on August 10.

The court heard that August 11 would be the last day for oral evidence. Going forward, evidence would be submitted in the form of an affidavit until August 18. The judge said he would make a decision on the matter on August 18 unless there was something exceptional that arose that would allow him to reopen the inquest.

A case of suicide

The security branch police had testified before the inquest held in 1972 that Timol had jumped out of a window from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square, which is now known as Johannesburg Central Police Station.

His family maintained over the years that they did not believe the police’s version and strongly believed Timol was killed by security branch officers while he was in detention. A fresh inquest was reopened after 46 years when the family told the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that it had new evidence.

Mothle reiterated a call he made when the inquest began for anyone with information that may assist the court to come forward through the NPA or Webber Wentzel attorneys.

The inquest will resume on August 10.