Seated in the front row of the court gallery on Thursday, Aggett’s sister, Jill Burger, tilted her head to the side and listened as Chikane spoke of how her brother’s death had somehow brought relief to scores of prisoners who were detained during that time. She leant forward and listened as Chikane spoke of the terrible condition that her brother was in, shortly before his death. While the person believed to have been Aggett's chief interrogator has since died, Burger said last week she needed to know the truth about his death.
On the last day he saw Aggett alive, Chikane said he had looked through a peephole in the door of the cell where he was held and watched as Aggett was led back to his cell.
“He was struggling to walk. He was bending forward almost like he was unable to pick up his body. It felt like the time I myself had my hands chained against my feet. When you come out of it, you cannot raise your back because it’s painful. He was struggling to walk. He was slow like a patient ... He looked very weak and stressed,” Chikane said.
In a statement, Chikane had described Aggett’s posture as “a man who had been broken”.
“It was clear that he had gone through the worst in detention. If they beat you up, you were still able to walk. But in his case, he looked awful. I could not get close to him but I could see that,” he said.
The inquest, held at the high court in Johannesburg, is probing whether the 28-year-old doctor had in fact hanged himself in the cells or whether he died as a result of actions by members of the security branch police. An earlier inquest, held in 1982, had ruled his death a suicide but his family has always maintained that this was not true.