"We were baslly automatons," John Deegan told a special TRC hearing on conscription in Cape Town. "We would just kill. That's how we got our kicks. We were adrenalin junkies."
Deegan, who says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has submitted a 50-page written submission to the Truth Commission, said he joined the security police after leaving school and was assigned to Koevoet in 1982. Koevoet was the SA Police's counter-insurgency unit in then South West Africa.
He described how a unit under his command tracked a guerillnown as Congo, to a kraal complex.
The residents of the kraal had refused to reveal which hut the fugitive was hiding in, and Deegan ordered his drivers to flatten several huts with Casspir armoured vehicles.
He then ordered his men to pour maximum fire into a particular hut, where he suspected Congo was.
When they stopped firing and removed the roof of the structure, they found the man badly wounded. The unit's medic tried to give him first aid and save his life.
"That's when I lost it completely," Deegan said.
He remembered, as if he had been watching the scene from above, that he tried to interrogate the wounded man, who was slipping into unconsciousness, and that Congo lied, claiming he knew nothing.
"I took out my pistol in a rage and put a bullet between his eyes. I shot him. I executed him."
The next day an Ovambo tracker blew the head off another prisoner he was trying to question.
Deegan said he felt deep remorse about the killings now.
"But we did it well. We did it efficiently. We were the best. That's what Koevoet was all about."
He said Koevoet founder Eugene de Kock, who has since been convicted of murder, and people like De Kock, were his colleagues and friends.
Deegan recalled another incident on an evening in 1981, shortly after he arrived on the South West African border with Angola.
He and other security branch policemen, all very drunk, went to see how some of their colleagues at Ombalantu in Ovamboland were progressing with the interrogation of a teacher.
While they were in the building it was hit by a Swapo rocket. There was a massive explosion and the ceiling collapsed.
The policemen yelled: "See what your friends are doing to us," and all began spontaneously punching and kicking the man. The prisoner died during the night.
"I was scared and realised I was a murderer now. But the official lack of response made me realise this had happened before.
"There was no going back after that. I was one of them. I was part of the culture."
Deegan said prisoners were beaten, deprived of food and water and given electric shocks.
When he conducted interrogations, he used psychological methods, playing the role of a "good cop". However he sometimes lost his temper and assaulted detainees.
Deegan, who is now self-employed and lives in the Western Cape, said his life since leaving the police in 1984 had been very difficult and that there had been a "big element of self-destruction". He had been through two marriages.
"I've basically destroyed the people around me, my friends, my family. It's enough now."
He said he believed he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and that one of his symptoms was hyper vigilance, or extreme paranoia. His submission to the Truth Commission was part of a healing process he had been trying to pursue even before he left the police.
"It's been very difficult to come to terms wi, weighs very heavily on me." e formation of a veterans' association, including former members of both the liberation and state security forces, who could join in trying to "make some kind of sense of the mess we made".
He said he hoped to go to Namibia soon with an SABC television team and possibly a psychologist provided by the Truth Commission to contact the victims of South African brutality and to make reparations.