NPA guns for Nick Deetlef after he denied role in Neil Aggett's torture
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Johannesburg - Former security branch police officer Nick Deetlefs’s claim that he never tortured anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett while he interrogated him was brought under sharp scrutiny on Thursday as the National Prosecuting Authority tried to uncover his possible hand in his death.
Deetlefs was concluding his cross-examination at the inquest into the 1982 death of Aggett, who was found hanging in his cell at the John Vorster Square police station, after days of interrogation and torture.
Deetlefs, who is among the security branch officers who interrogated Aggett during his detention, denied that he had tortured him, adding that they had a good relationship that resulted in Aggett finally disclosing some of the information he had been refusing to disclose during the three months of his detention.
The NPA’s Jabulani Mlotshwa questioned how Deetlefs, who was notorious for subjecting political detainees to severe torture, was able to make Aggett make the confession within 6 hours of his interrogation without assaulting him on January 30 1982.
“I will tell you what happened on that fateful afternoon of the 30th of January. You see, (Aggett’s chief interrogator) Lieutenant Steve Whitehead had Aggett for some three months and he was not achieving any success and you say he achieved in six hours what he could not achieve in three months. So he was under pressure to get results. He hatched a plan and used the Saturday evening when no one is in the office and brought you,” Mlotshwa said.
Several activists who were detained around the same time as Aggett have testified before the inquiry that he had been the most severely tortured by his interrogators, adding that he had been extremely weak and struggled to walk shortly before he was found dead.
Mlotshwa pushed Deetlefs to concede that he was the one who had applied electric shocks and tortured Aggett while he was blindfolded during his interrogation, as he complained.
Deetlefs insisted on denying any role in Aggett’s torture.
Despite initially describing himself as a non-violent interrogator who never assaulted political detainees at the notorious 10th floor of the station, Deetlefs admitted to slapping ANC stalwart Barbara Hogan and threatening her with electric shocks while he interrogated her, including forcing her to sit under the table while she was being questioned.
Other activists who were interrogated by him, including former international relations and cooperation deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim accused him of being a “psychopathic” torturer who boasted about “breaking” key political detainees during his interrogations.
Deetlefs’s cross-examination continues.