Former security branch police officer Johannes Visser says he wasn’t aware that the anti-apartheid activist, Neil Aggett, had been kept awake for two consecutive days when he interrogated him for 12 hours.
Visser, who’s been testifying at the inquest into Aggett’s death in February 1982, says Aggett never complained about being tortured and assaulted the night before he had questioned him from six in the morning until six at night.
A few days later, Aggett was found hanging in his cell at the then John Vorster Square Police Station in Johannesburg.
The police say he committed suicide but Aggett’s family believe he was murdered.
Visser says that even if he’d known that Aggett had been deprived of sleep, he would have still continued to interrogate him.
Aggett family lawyer, Howard Varney, put it to Visser that the sleep deprivation was part of the torture.
“If you know that a detainee had been kept awake for close to three days in succession, that the purpose is clearly to exhaust him, why won’t you admit that?”
Visser responded, “If I’m instructed to do something, like in this case I was instructed to talk to him, I can’t ignore an instruction that I get from my senior.”
Yesterday, Visser said he never came across a single complaint of assault made by any detainee during his time at the then John Vorster Square Police Station in Johannesburg between 1974 and 1982.
Visser’s job was to inspect black detainees’ dockets.
Aggett was found hanging in his cell on 5 February 1982.
Visser interrogated Aggett for about 12 hours a few days before he died. He says he never assaulted or intimidated Aggett or any other detainees.
However, State Prosecutor Jabulane Mlotshwa pulled out his personal file, which shows there were two civil claims against the police, in which Visser was accused of assault.
“This man, Oriet van Heerden, whom you’d take out to gyms several times, he’d then come back and claim that you assaulted him, you shocked him, hanged him. All these allegations.”
“It never happened,” responded Visser.
“So this civil claim, according to your records, it’s incorrect?”
“It’s a lie.”
Mlotshwa further asked, “Why would your record a lie, your personal file, why would it lie about you?”
Visser responded, “Because I had to go to court. I never went to court.”
Former security branch police officer accused of misleading the 1982 Aggett Inquest: