Trying to recall events that are now over three decades old, Dr Elizabeth Floyd’s account of her time at the infamous John Vorster Square police station in Johannesburg is something out of a horror movie.
Speaking at the reopened inquest into former anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett’s death on Thursday, Floyd, who was Aggett’s partner at the time, told the court of her interrogation by Martin Naude and Stephan Whitehead – both of whom were Security Branch policemen.
Whitehead, a key character in Aggett’s detention, allegedly tortured Aggett in the days before his death in 1982.
Floyd recalled in the High Court in Johannesburg how in the weeks leading up to both her and Aggett’s detention, they were under “intense” security monitoring.
Aggett had been followed by five different cars and his own car was often tampered with to cause an accident, Floyd revealed.
The union offices Aggett worked at were also raided and at one point officers “urinated in the kettle”, Floyd told the court.
“It was just harassment.”
On the day before their arrest, Floyd and Aggett sat on their couch and “just spoke”. She told the inquest they knew they would be apart for a long time.
But this would be the last time Floyd would see Aggett.
She was taken to Bronkhorstspruit for detention at the same time Aggett was taken in.
‘Screaming was long, loud’
Floyd was held in solitary confinement here for most of the time. She was later taken to the infamous 10th floor of John Vorster Square to be interrogated.
She eventually lost track of the dates.
During her two interrogations at John Vorster Square, she heard the piercing sound of a man screaming.
“It was long and loud… everyone could hear it,” she said, adding she interpreted this as someone being tortured.
The screaming came from the “ware-kamer” or “truth room” – a room on the 10th floor where interrogation and torture often took place.
She said, however, she did not think this was Aggett screaming, but did piece together that her interrogators knew Aggett.
‘Out of control’
There was a difference between Whitehead and Naude, Floyd said: Naude was “more experienced” and “knew what he was doing… there was pressure but none of that crazy behaviour”.
Whitehead, on the other hand, was “out of control”.
She remarked on the reality of being a “female detainee” being interrogated by men.
“But a particular type of man,” she added, describing them as “bodybuilders” and “obviously on steroids”.
But Floyd remained steadfast, threatening the officers – “if you hit me, I’ll hit you back”.
The inquest continues.