Still no answers over Rick Turner’s death

By Farook Khan Time of article published Oct 7, 2018

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Distinguished photographer, artist and historian, Omar Badsha was one of a trio of very close friends. The others were Rick Turner and Steve Biko - both of whom were murdered by the apartheid state.

Omar, who was recently in Kimberley, said, “Rick Turner arrived in Durban in January 1970. Within the first week of his arrival, he knocked at my door and introduced himself.

“There was something about this young, red-head white man that drew me to him. He was warm, humble, a great listener and as I learnt a great teacher and theorist who had an enormous desire to learn.

“I introduced him to my friends, and he in turn, to his associates and students. Within that first year, he was everywhere, speaking to students around the country. We ran workshops at Phoenix Settlement, we set up discussion groups and got involved in wages commission projects, even a discussion group with teachers looking at alternative education models and a journal.

“Rick had this energy, intellectual mind and personality that commanded respect and courage to take on the system. It was his charisma and ability to inspire, like his friend and soul mate, Steve Biko.

“The state tried to silence him by banning him, and when that failed, they assassinated him exactly six months after killing Steve,” he said.

Turner was gunned down on January 8, 1978, at his house in Bellair. He was putting his daughters Jann and Kim, then 13 and 10, to bed when a noise brought him to the bedroom window. This newspaper reported that a single bullet shattered the window, penetrating his lung, then ricocheting around the room. It was so loud that Jann thought it was a bomb. She ran to the phone, but the line went dead, and she was unable to call an ambulance. Within 20 minutes, he was dead.

One of the most heartbreaking duties Omar had to perform was to prepare Turner’s remains for a Muslim burial and even drove the hearse from the St Anthony’s Hall to the Brook Street Cemetery.

For Jane Turner, Rick’s mother, the heartbreak eventually killed her during an exhaustive search for the killer.

His daughter, Jann also launched her own investigation and turned to a number of influential people, but it ended in vain.

In an article for South African History Online, Jann wrote, “It is very, very hard to accept that I may never know who killed him and why. It is very hard to accept that the truth will remain obscured. You see somebody killed my father. Somebody shot down this man who spoke gently of reason and freedom, who swore violently at the failures of his DIY projects, loved bad English, cooking and Elvis and Hegel. A man who was thinking about going for a walk on the beach tomorrow with his daughters, if only the rain would let up. What do you think went through his mind in those twenty long minutes after the bullet ripped through him? Those twenty minutes before he died. How much fear? How much regret? How much love?

“There are people out there who know the truth. Will somebody please just tell me.”

Dejected, dismayed and disappointed, she left South Africa to settle in Los Angeles, where she is a movie maker.


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