Former Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee, who was co-founder and commander of the covert South African Police unit based at Vlakplaas, has died. File photo: Herbert Matimba

Pretoria - Former Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee, who was co-founder and commander of the covert South African Police unit based at Vlakplaas, has died.

The first reports on Wednesday night indicated that he had died of cancer at home in Pretoria. He had been ill for some time.

Piet Croucamp, a lecturer in politics at the University of Johannesburg, said he had been told that Coetzee had died of kidney failure.

Madeleine Fullard, head of the Missing Persons Task Team at the National Prosecuting Authority, tweeted on Wednesday night : “Just heard that former Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee has died. Still needed him to point out one last site.”

Her team was tasked by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to find the remains of a number of activists still missing from the Struggle days, feared killed by units under the command of Coetzee and others, and buried in secret graves or burnt at various sites around the country during the apartheid era.

As the then-head of Vlakplaas, Coetzee held many dark secrets and had been assisting the authorities in piecing together information that, in several cases, led to graves being unearthed.

He was granted amnesty by the TRC in 1997.

The Star