Witness suggests that Timol died in morning, contradicting security cop

Forensic pathologist says that medical evidence was not able to make a distinction between time of day

Witness suggests that Timol died in morning, contradicting security cop

10 August 2017

Pretoria - The North Gauteng High Court heard on Thursday from a second witness in the Ahmed Timol inquest that the alleged time of death of the anti-apartheid activist was in the morning, and not in the afternoon, as has been maintained by a former security branch policeman.

The version put forward by retired Joao Jan Rodrigues before the first inquest in 1972 is that Timol's death occurred in the late afternoon when he allegedly jumped to his death from the 10th floor of the 13-storey John Vorster Square building.

He has maintained this story since October 1971, when Timol died.

Subpoenaed witness, Abdullah Adam, told the court that he had been working at the busy Dollars Petrol Station in 1971, which is right across the road from John Vorster Square (now Johannesburg Central Police Station).

According to Adam, he heard from his boss that there was commotion across the street and that someone had fallen from the building - something that he said had never happened before. Adam said that it took him a few minutes to cross the road as it was busy.

He told the court that they were on the scene for about three minutes before they were chased away by security police.

Adam said he didn't see Timol's face, as his view was obscured by a shrub in which the body was lying. He said that he could only see the shoes of the deceased, as they were pointing up.

When Adam was prodded about the time, he said that, although he couldn't remember the day, he remembered the time, as he had looked forward to his tea break because he hadn't had breakfast in the mornings.

He ended up not having his tea as it was cold, he said, as some chuckles broke out across the room. He submitted that they had two tea breaks at his place of employment - one between 10:00 and 10:15, and another between 13:00 and 13:15.

He testified that the commotion had occurred around 10:00.

The witness told the court that he had gone back to work after they were chased away, and that he hadn't heard or seen an ambulance at the scene of the incident. He said that he only found out that the body was that of a Roodepoort school teacher at a later stage.

More witnesses come forward

Muhammad Ali Thokan, a businessman, told the court last 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. Rodrigues had said that the death took place at around 16:00.

Dr Steve Naidoo, a forensic pathologist who was called back to testify on the time of death, said that medical evidence was not able to make a distinction between whether the death had taken place in the earlier or later part of the day.

Naidoo said that the doctor who declared Timol dead had simply noted, after 16:00, that Timol had "died recently", making it difficult, as the term "recently" could be anything from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

The court had initially heard that August 11 would be the last day for oral evidence, and August 18 the last day for affidavits, but Judge Billy Mothle said the matter would stand down until Monday, August 14, to allow for more witnesses who were in and around the building to come forward, so that the time of death could be determined.

Mothle said that several witnesses had come forward and would be consulting with legal counsel. Mothle said a former security branch member had contacted his registrar.

A fresh inquest was reopened after 46 years when Timol's family told the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that it had new evidence.

The family maintained over the years that they did not believe the police's version and strongly believed that Timol was killed by security branch officers while he was in detention.

The NPA's Shaun Abrahams and Luvuyo Mfaku were spotted in the courtroom.