On February 5, 1982, Dr Neil Aggett was found hanged in his cell after being detained without trial and interrogated at John Vorster Square police station for 70 days. Picture: Wesley Fester/African News Agency (ANA)
On February 5, 1982, Dr Neil Aggett was found hanged in his cell after being detained without trial and interrogated at John Vorster Square police station for 70 days. Picture: Wesley Fester/African News Agency (ANA)

Special branch officer testifies on Neil Aggett's death

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Feb 17, 2020

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Johannesburg - One of the security police branch officers who tortured political detainees at the notorious John Vorster Square police station, Nick Deetlefs, has taken the stand at the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett.

Aggett was found hanging in his cell after days of interrogation and torture, and a previous inquest into his death declared it a suicide with no blame on the apartheid cops.

The reopened inquest into Aggett’s death will continue at the South Gauteng High Court until February 28.

Deetlefs, who admitted to have participated in the Aggett’s interrogation, started his testimony by expressing sympathy to his family and then listing his current illnesses – including loss of memory - to presiding Judge Motsamai Makume.

“I would like to use this opportunity to sympathise with the family of Dr Neil Aggett. The way I understood it, he was a very good person. At the time I questioned him I had a good sense that he is a good man,” said Deetlefs.

The retired cop said his health had deteriorated over the years since he retired from the special branch, including suffering from stroke.

“After an investigation through my psychiatrist I was discovered that there was damage to my brain cells and that has affected my memory until today,” he said.

Deetlefs said he was also diagnosed with throat cancer last year, adding that he has type 1 diabetes.

Deetlefs has been accused of being behind some of the tortures of political activists during his time with the security branch, including Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson Carl Niehaus.

Niehaus, who was also in detention around the time Aggett died in custody, is set to take the stand at the inquiry and testify against Deetlefs.

The inquest continues.

Political Bureau

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