#TimolInquest: 'Former security branch police officer should be charged with murder'

Former security branch officer sergeant Joao Jan Rodrigues. (Amanda Khoza, News24)
Former security branch officer sergeant Joao Jan Rodrigues. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Johannesburg – The lawyer representing the family of anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol, has said he will be asking the North Gauteng High Court to recommend that criminal charges be brought against former security branch police sergeant, Joao Jan Rodrigues.

“We will first put to this court that you collaborated with the security branch to cover up various crimes.

“Firstly, the torture and the repeated grievous assault with intent to do harm to Mr Timol as well as his murder. Should it be demonstrated that you colluded with the security branch to set up the fall of Mr Timol, you should be held responsible with the crime of murder.

“We will be submitting to this honourable court [that it] recommend to the National Prosecuting Authority that you be charged with perjury, accessory after the fact to the murder of Timol, alternatively to the murder of Ahmed Timol,” said advocate Howard Varney, who is representing the Timol family.  

When asked if he understood, Rodrigues said, “I do not agree with the council’s submission, I am not guilty”.

Day 13 of the Ahmed Timol inquest in Pretoria proved difficult for Rodrigues, 78.

The former security branch sergeant was grilled and holes were poked in his testimony in which he said he was the last person to see Timol alive.

On Monday Rodrigues told the court that on October 27, 1971, (the day of Timol’s death) he had been summoned to John Vorster Square by officers, Captain Gloy and Van Niekerk.

Read more here: Former security policeman tells of Ahmed Timol’s last moments alive

When he arrived at their offices he found them sitting with another man (Timol), all three enjoying cups of coffee.

Shortly after he arrived to drop off the officers’ salaries and a sealed envelope, an unknown man (Mr X) walked in announcing the arrest of three other people linked to Timol.

Then the two officers left the room asking Rodrigues to keep a close eye on Timol.

‘Now what should I do?’

A few moments later Rodrigues said Timol requested to go to the toilet and in the process of taking him there, Timol then quickly rushed to the window of the building, now known as Johannesburg Central Police Station, and jumped.

Timol’s death in 1971 was ruled a suicide but his family have always believed that he was murdered.

The 1972 an inquest was reopened after the family said they had new evidence.

On Wednesday, Rodrigues struggled to explain the rationale behind a lot of the decisions he made on the day of Timol’s death.

Both the NPA’s Torie Pretorius and Varney stopped short of calling Rodrigues a liar after he presented various versions of what happened and gave new evidence that was not contained in his original statement in 1972.

Read more here: Timol Inquest: Ex-security branch cop accused of fabricating story

Judge Mothle grilled Rodrigues asking him why he should believe his version when he had evidence before him made by two pathologists.

“Advocate Pretorius and Varney have presented evidence and the evidence presented by other witnesses which raise serious questions about your version…

“The medical reports are based on the report of the autopsy…All the people conceded that there were injuries that were there which were not consistent with the fall. The debate was how old were the wounds.”

Judge Billy Mothle said, “Now what should I do? Accept your version and reject the report of the autopsy that there was an injury on the eye because I cannot accept both?”

Rodrigues said as far as he could remember, he did not see any injuries on Timol’s body.

In the hands of the court

He said if he accepted the autopsy report that there were injuries, then it meant that Rodrigues’ evidence was false.

Mothle said, “The reason why I think the police sat in the testimony was to see if you would reveal what they wanted you to reveal, they wanted to see if you would play along with the story they gave you which you had to tell the magistrate, is that correct to confer that they wanted to play along to the suicide story?”

Rodrigues said, “I don’t think the submission from the court is truth…I refused to be influenced by them, I stuck to my guns”.

Mothle said after Rodrigues had testified, he was given a letter of commendation and protection.

“There is evidence before me that suggests that the information you gave at the inquest in 1972, which you repeated here, does not accord with the evidence I have received...”

Rodrigues said, “I cannot tell the court which evidence must be taken into consideration to arrive at the probable judgment, that is in the hands of the court.

“There is no other way that I can tell the truth, but the truth is what is written in my statement and I stand by it. I cannot change the truth. If I change my statement then it means I lied to the court.

“It is the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.”

The inquest continues on Thursday with former minister of intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, expected to testify.

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