TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

UWC HEARING - DAY 1 - MONDAY 5 AUGUST 1996  

CASE NO: CT/00406

VICTIM: CHRISTOPHER TRUTER [son]

NATURE OF VIOLENCE: SHOT AND KILLED BY POLICE

TESTIMONIES FROM: REBECCA JOHANNA TRUTER [mother]

SARAH VALERIE PETERSEN [sister]

 

CHAIRPERSON: Good morning Ms Truter, please stand for the oath.Thank you.And I would be glad if you would listen to the translation.

REBECCA JOHANNA TRUTER Duly sworn states

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, you may sit.Ms Truter you are going to tell the Commission about your son Christopher who was a very young boy when he was shot and killed and Sarah if I may call you that, you are the sister of Christopher and you will tell your story as well.it's a very deeply painful one, we appreciate that.We hope that you will fee comfortable with the Commission, we are here to assist not to judge you, we are not a Court of Law, but we would very much want you to share with us what you have experienced.Mr Denzil Potgieter is going to take over from me and he is going to put the questions to you in jou eie taal and you can feel very comfortable and relaxed as you give us your testimonies.Thank you very much.

MR POTGIETER: Thank you Chairperson.Good morning, madam and Ms Petersen good morning.You can take off your headphones because we will speak to each other directly.I'll tell you what if you can't hear me properly, if you can't hear what I am

saying, then you can replace the earphones to hear, but if you can hear me properly there is no need for that.Can you hear me.Is that better - is it better with the headphones on. --- Ja - yes.

All right, could you perhaps move the microphone to Ms Truter because we going to start with her, and we'll get back to you Sarah later on.Ms Truter I would like you to just relax, tell us the story and no problems, don't worry about it, so please take your time and tell us everything that you wanted to tell us. --- Must I start?

No let me ask you first, this case evolves around your son Christopher in August of 1976 he was shot and he died a couple days after this, is that correct? --- Yes.

Actually 1976 was a very turbulent time there was a lot of unrest, especially the month of August.The unrest broke out in the Western Cape and it spread to places like Bonteheuwel, protest actions gathered momentum and Christopher was actually the first victim, the first person who died in that time of unrest in 1976.How old was he when he died? --- He was 15 years old.

He was only 15 years, was he at school? --- Yes at Bonteheuwel High.

What standard was he in? --- He was in standard 8.

Standard 8? --- Yes.

Now the date we have, the date on which he was shot, it was the 25th of August of 1976? --- Yes.

You weren't present at the scene when he was shot but you heard from other people what happened, how he came to be shot.

Could you tell us briefly what you know about this incident.--- I was a nursing sister at Zerelda Steyn and he came home on the 24th and he said that there was a lot of singing and unrest, and all the children came home from school and they took his book satchel and he found that all his books had been strewn around.And somebody had taken his satchel, it was a new satchel.And I told him well Christopher tomorrow you take two carrier bags and you go and collect all your books and bring them home.He went to collect his books, he passed Arcadia High School, and they went to see what was happening there because there was a lot of singing and chanting by the school children, there was a lot of noise.And whilst he was standing there, five women were present as well and his friend Sydney Jackson also arrived.I don't know happened further but my daughter could perhaps tell you, because I was work near Conradie Hospital.They just called me and told me that he had been shot, it was on the news as well that a child had been shot.They phoned me to tell me that it was my child who had been shot.And of course I was terribly upset and I went to Conradie Hospital in Ward 8, it was the children's ward and I waited there for him.But my daughter will be able to tell you how she found him.

So this happened in Bonteheuwel where he was shot? --- Yes, yes that's correct.

What kind of a child was Christopher? --- He was a very happy child and he was always very curious to know what was happening, but he was also quite timid.And I think the school gave a reference as to what kind of a child he was.He loved his school and he was very successful in his studies. He never failed a standard.

Was he involved in political activities at the school because we know there were lots of riots and unrest at the time. --- No he wasn't involved, he was just exited - got exited when people marched and sang and he just went to see what was happening at Arcadia High.As I said he was quite afraid, he was a timid child.

Now Ms Truter as far as you know, who shot Christopher? --- I have the papers in the file it was Albert Voskuil who shot him.

Now Albert Voskuil is a policeman is that correct? --- Yes he is a policeman, he was a Captain.And his colleague was Errol English who was with him.

Now after the accident was there a Court case? ---After the incident yes, yes sir.We had to attend the inquest and when we arrived they made us wait in the passage and they were behind closed doors we didn't know what was going on.Afterwards the lawyer came out and said well the case has been finalized.And I was really very unhappy because we hadn't been told anything.Captain Voskuil apparently said it was a mistake.But I don't think it was a mistake, because if you shoot up in the air, then you wouldn't use live ammunition, but he Captain Voskuil shot - used a live bullet, the photographs don't show but he actually fired in the air.

So in other words Ms Truter, that Captain Voskuil that shot Christopher, nothing happened to him. --- No nothing happened to him and I later heard that he is retired.

Now you say that he alleged that he had been shooting in the air? --- That's what he said he shot in the air, but how could

it then of happened that my child was shot in the back of his head.

So he says the shooting, he said he was shooting up in the air, but the wound was at the back of Christopher's head, that was the entrance wound. --- Yes at the back of his head, at the back of his brain.

So you don't believe the story that Voskuil shot into the air? --- No I can't believe it, because it simply doesn't make sense.If he - if he had been shooting in the air, why was he using a live bullet, he must of known that, that bullet would land somewhere and cause harm.

Am I understanding you correct that nobody has ever notified that officially what happened, at the time of Christopher's death.You were never notified as to the Court's finding, no letter. --- No, I was never given anything, afterwards he came to us, he knows us and we know him, my husband was sitting outside when he said to my husband is this where the child was shot.And my husband just said yes but my husband wasn't aware that he was the actual person who shot him.So the children came afterwards and said it's him, it's him and the children started acting strangely.

So is this now Mr Voskuil who came to your house? --- Yes.

And he came to ask whether this was the - if this is the child's home? --- Yes.

He didn't say anything, he didn't apologize.--- You see I wasn't there at the time, I was nursing opposite Conradie and this is what I had heard my - my daughter was at the scene at the time when he was shot. I just waited for them with the ambulance afterwards.

Yes we will speak to your daughter now, I'll speak to Sarah.But how do you feel about this whole incident? --- You know each and every day I still of him, he was my baby, he was 15 years old and I still think of him each and every day, I am so sad, his death affected us very badly.I was healthy, strong woman and look at me today.

We know this must be very-very painful for you to talk about this in public, but may I ask you, it's clear that you still very unhappy about this incident.What can the Commission do for you to help you. --- You see he was 15 years old, he wanted to one day work for me and support me, he would of been 35 today.He always said that he would work me and he would support me, he wanted to study to become a lawyer, so that I could pay my debts.But now we have nothing, we live off our pension, if we borrow money during the month we have to pay it after we receive our pension at the end of the month, life is a struggle.And I am asking the Commission, but I don't really know how to put it, but perhaps they can do something for me.

Thank you Ms Truter, we have heard what you've said.I am not going to talk to Sarah before I hand you back to the Chairperson to hear whether there are any questions for you.

SARAH VALERIE PETERSEN

MR POTGIETER: Sarah welcome and thank you for coming with your mother and that you are also here today to tell us what you know about the shooting incident. Your mother says that she wasn't at home that day, but that you were at home, is that so? --- Yes.

Can you very briefly tell us what happened on the 25th of August 1976.

--- I was working at the time and I was on sick leave, my leg was swollen.That morning when he left for school to fetch his books, I told him that I was leaving for the Day Hospital which was in Bonteheuwel.I had to cross this field to get to the Day Hospital - this field where this whole incident took place where the children are performing.And a student came to me and said to me that they shot at Christopher's friend, this Sydney Jackson.And I asked him where Christopher was, he said that he did not know where Christopher was and another student then came to me and said that they had just shot Christopher.And this person was just lying there and I passed, and of course the bandage that I had on my leg had come off because I was running.A policeman asked me where are you going, and I said that I believe my brother is lying there and he said well go and see that you get away from here.And when I got there I saw that Christopher was lying there with his tongue hanging out, and he had on his school top, which was scattered with pieces of his brain.And I wanted to know how long the ambulance would take before it arrived, and they said that the ambulance would be arriving shortly.And if was half an hour before the ambulance arrived.They arrived and we got into the ambulance and went to the hospital.But on the way to the hospital he said to me mummy.

Please take your time, we know that it is very difficult but do take your time, there is no hurry.Perhaps the briefer can give you a bit of water to drink. Do you feel a bit better. --- Yes, he said mummy and I said yes my child, because he thought that my mother was in the ambulance with him. And when we got there, they said, that the policeman had thrown him with a brick, but that the had to go straight through to the theater.And we heard that the doctors removed a bullet from his head, and that's all.

So the police said that they had thrown him with a brick, that he wasn't shot, but he actually been shot with - he had actually been shot and the bullet was removed.Where you at Court when the inquest was conducted? --- No I wasn't.

Do you want to add anything else to your evidence or is that all that you want to say? --- No really.

Have you said everything? --- Yes.

Thank you very much.I will now hand back to the Chairman and he will find out if there are any other questions.

CHAIRPERSON: Any questions, any questions?

REBECCA JOHANNA TRUTER

CHAIRPERSON: I have just one question that I would like to ask you, there were a number of photographs taken by the chief photographer of The Argus, did you ever see those photographs? --- Yes I did see them, I kept them for 20 years, kept them in a safe place with the attorney's documents and everything.But I want to say when I received him at the hospital he had a big lump on one side of his head, and I screamed so much that they had to give me medication.They had to sedate me and I had to be sent home, but before I went home, I wanted his clothes, I waited for the clothes and I was taken home. And when I got home, his school top was so full of pieces of brains and pieces of bones that I had to keep it under a tap of running water so that it could all wash into a drain. And I soaked his things and when it was dry I distributed it amongst other students.And we then carried on, and after a year I got a slight heart attack, and the doctor said to me that it was as a result of delayed shock.But the doctor then said to me that it was a bullet and I should not believe that it was a stone or a brick.And that's all.

Thank you.

SARAH VALERIE PETERSEN

CHAIRPERSON: Sarah could I just ask you as well do you remember seeing the photographs that were taken by The Argus photographer? --- Yes.

Can I ask you if you - the reason why I am asking is that according to information that we have from our investigators, there were actual photographs taken of the incident when Christopher was shot.Can you remember seeing that, a photograph of the policeman with the gun? --- I cannot really say but I was there after he had been shot, after the shooting.

That's fine, I just wanted to know whether you had actually seen that or not, we can go back to those photographs when we come back to you.I just want to echo the words of Mr Potgieter when he mentioned that the death of a child is particularly painful and tragically in South Africa many people paid a very high price.And amongst those people were children, children at school, children in the first flower of their lives, and they had been cut down and we are grateful to you for reminding us of the high price that has been paid for our democracy and the end of a conflict.We should never ever take that for granted and we should commit ourselves afresh in the name of Christopher and so many others to continue their work and to strive for peace, for reconciliation and justice.Your coming here today is part of that.And we are very-very grateful to you and we have listened carefully to you.We've heard your request and we will consider them very carefully and we'll come back to you.And thank you again very-very much indeed.Baie, baie dankie. --- Baie dankie.

Thank you very much.