Trust Feed massacre judge dies peacefully in Howick care centre

2012-12-06 00:00

ANOTHER of the country’s jurists, retired Judge Andrew Wilson, died on Tuesday afternoon, less than a fortnight short of his 83rd birthday.

Judge Wilson, who was born in Durban on December 27, 1929, died peacefully surrounded by his family.

He presided over several high profile cases, including the Trust Feed and Mountain Rise cases, and appeared as an advocate in numerous political trials, including the Bethal trial of PAC leaders.

On December 3, 1988, 11 people were shot and killed at a home in Trust Feed, a settlement near New Hanover.

The incident was portrayed as the work of “ANC terrorists”, but it was later proved that the local station commander, Lieutenant Brian Mitchell, and four special constables were responsible. Judge Wilson sentenced Mitchell to 30 years’ jail and his accomplices to 15 years for the murders.

Mitchell later received amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Judge Wilson matriculated at Hilton College and studied law at Jesus College Cambridge. Admitted to the English bar in 1953, and the South African bar three years later, he took silk in 1976 and was appointed to the then Natal bench in 1984.

In 1996 he was appointed deputy-chairperson of the TRC’s amnesty committee and four years later became its chairperson.

Some of the high profile amnesty hearings he presided over included the Amy Biehl, Eugene de Kock and St James massacre cases. He retired as a judge in May 2001.

Wilson’s wife of 29 years, Crystelle, said he had been in frail care at the Amber Valley Care Centre in Howick for four years.

She said Wilson was her soul mate and a fabulous husband.

“His passing is going to leave emptiness in my life,” she said.

Wilson’s former secretary of 15 years, Penny Hardman, said he was a “kind boss”, “very special to work for” and “brilliant”.

“He was quite a character and full of personality,” Hardman told The Witness.

KZN Judge President Chiman Patel said last night he was saddened to hear of Wilson’s death. While they had not served on the bench together — as Wilson had already retired — Patel had appeared before him as counsel.

“It was always a pleasure to appear before him. It’s always sad to lose a member of the bench,” he said.

The judge president said Wilson had upheld the rule of law and dispensed justice fairly despite “the restraints that existed in the past”.

In his reaction, the Deputy Judge President, Judge Achmat Jappie, said he got to know Wilson while he was chairman of the bar council in Durban. “I liked him as an advocate. He was a well respected judge,” he said.

Wilson stood as a Progressive Party candidate for Durban Central in 1966, and helped form the Legal Resources Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights branches in Durban.

He was a trustee of the Legal Resources Centre from its inception for more than 10 years.

Wilson was also a chairman of the Society of Advocates of Natal and a member of the General Council of the Bar.

A service of thanksgiving for Wilson’s life will be held at St Michael’s United Church, Boston on Monday, December 10 at 11 am.

In lieu of flowers, the Wilson family has suggested donations to the Dlalanathi Fund for Bereaved Children at 033 345 3729.

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