Security branch police officer denies involvement in covering up Aggett’s death

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Former security branch police officer Nicolaas Deetlefs has denied involvement in covering up anti-apartheid activist Neil Aggett’s death. However, during cross-examination, Deetlefs confessed that they did cover up the assaults and torture of detainees at the then John Vorster Square Police Station.

He has been testifying at the inquest into Aggett’s death at the High Court in Johannesburg.

Aggett was found hanging in his cell on the 5 February 1982.

The security branch says he committed suicide, but his family has rejected that claim.

Deetlefs has conceded that he lied at the first inquest that cleared the security branch police of wrongdoing and says he has been truthful at this inquest.

However, the Aggett family lawyer Howard Varney believes Deetlefs has been continuing with the same lies and cover-ups that characterised the security branch.

As he concluded his cross-examination of Deetlefs, Varney insisted that Deetlefs was among the Security Branch officers who were involved in the cover-up concerning Aggett’s death.

“I’m not going to trouble you with the legal argument, but we’ll be submitting that both Whitehead and Cronwright are responsible for the murder of Dr Aggett. Mr Deetlefs, where this impacts on you, since you have admitted under oath a number of times, in your affidavit as well as your evidence that you helped to cover up; you agreed to stay quiet; we will be putting up to this court that in covering up, in keeping silent, you were an accessory after the fact, to murder.”

SABC Journalist Nozintombi Miya reports that the Aggett family lawyers were relentless in questioning Deetlefs about the torture of detainees: 

Deetlefs says as far as he’s concerned,  Aggett committed suicide and therefore, does not understand where the question of murder comes from.

“My lord, I did say I interrogated him on the 30th of January. I don’t know of any assault or anything that transpired there. You can call it as you please, and now murder, I don’t know where council come from with that .”

Earlier, Deetlefs denied ever assaulting Aggett during interrogation, but admitted to assaulting former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan.

After initially denying ever using violence against detainees, Deetlefs conceded that he actually did.

“My Lord, I would give a person a slap in the face.”