Durban - In opening arguments on Tuesday at the reopened inquest into the August 3 1977 death of Dr Hoosen Mia Haffejee, advocate Howard Varney has slammed the handling of the first inquest, in 1978, looking into Haffejee’s death.
Varney is representing the Haffejee family.
The 1978 inquest, presided over by magistrate Trevor Blunden, found that Haffejee had committed suicide while in police detention, by hanging himself with his trousers from a grille door at Brighton Beach police station.
Varney said the findings of the first inquest had made for pitiful reading as he had accepted the police version of events without question, not raising even the slightest concern or apprehension about its improbabilities.
Haffejee was abducted and arrested by members of the Special Branch of the South African Police, among them Lieutenant James Brough Taylor and Captain Petrus Lodewikus du Toit.
He was taken to Brighton Beach police station where he would die some 28 hours later while in detention.
“Examples of Blunden’s disinterest in the truth was his acceptance of the claims by Lt James Brough Taylor and Captain Petrus Lodewikus du Toit that Haffejee was violent in nature, in that he strenuously resisted arrest and had to be forced into the vehicle on the morning of 2 August 1977, and that he again resisted being placed back into the vehicle following the so-called pointing out at North Pier on the beach at 8pm.
“The evidence of Taylor and Du Toit is patent transparent drivel. Haffejee had an unusually small physique for a 26-year-old, weighing only 49kg (with a height of 1.75m). Evidence will be led to show that his weight and frame were comparable to that of an average 14-year-old boy. He had a body mass index (BMI) of only 16, when it should have been between 18.5 and 24.9,” Varney said.
In contrast, Du Toit and Taylor would not have been out of place in the front or second row of a rugby scrum as Du Toit weighed 109kg and his height was 1.98m, giving him a BMI of approximately 27.8, while Taylor weighed 82kg with a height of more than 1.75m, giving him a BMI of 26.8.
“Indeed, Du Toit admitted he had been a rugby player and Taylor conceded he ’played rugby at the time’ There were at least six police officers present at the arrest and at least four were supposedly present at the alleged pointing out at North Pier.
“The claim that Haffejee, a tiny person, would have taken on multiple police officers, especially those the size of Du Toit and Taylor on two occasions stretches belief to breaking point,” Varney said.