Jan Rodrigues, the security police clerk who was the last man to see anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol alive 46 years ago, has been accused of concocting a story and not playing open cards with the court.
Both Dr Torie Pretorius, representing the state, and Advocate Howard Varney, who represents Timol’s family in a reopened inquest into his death, put it to Rodrigues that they would argue his evidence of Timol jumping up and diving through a 10th-floor window while in his custody was “unlikely”.
His reply was that he could only tell what he saw. Pretorius confronted Rodrigues with a photo taken in 1971, shortly after Timol’s death on October 27 that year, showing Rodrigues standing next to the window and pointing out where he was standing when Timol allegedly jumped.
Rodrigues said the photographer had “told him where to stand”.
Referring to a description of the incident in a book by Gordon Winter, Pretorius said it was more likely Timol was dangled out of the window to make him talk and was then accidentally allowed to fall, which was why Rodrigues was later described as “white with shock”.
Rodrigues earlier testified that Timol got a “huge fright” when an unknown man came in and said they had caught three of his compatriots, that the two security police captains questioning him then left the room, Timol then asked to go to the toilet and suddenly jumped up and dived through the window.
He was told Timol was a “valuable witness” and said he “must have instinctively dived” towards Timol to stop him, but stumbled over a chair, by which time Timol was “already gone”.
Despite being confronted with medical evidence of two forensic pathologists that Timol would have had severe visible injuries, Rodrigues insisted he had never seen any injuries on the slightly built young man.
He also insisted he was not aware he had received a commendation for exemplary service by the national police commissioner two days before Timol’s death was ruled a suicide in 1972.
The inquest continues.