Top Yard detective to join Hani inquiry: Churchill-Coleman appointed adviser to allay ANC's fears of cover-up

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The Independent Online
ONE of Scotland Yard's most senior detectives, Commander George Churchill-Coleman, is to help to investigate the killing of Chris Hani, the top African National Congress official.

Mr Churchill-Coleman, head of the Fraud Squad and former head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch, left Heathrow airport last night. He is the first of two foreign independent advisers South African authorities agreed to appoint to the murder investigation in order to placate ANC fears of a police and security service cover-up.

The ANC believes elements in the security forces are behind Hani's assassination. The second adviser, a senior German official, is expected to be named this week.

Hani, 50, former general secretary of the South African Communist Party, was shot dead outside his home in a Johannesburg suburb 11 days ago. Police charged a Polish emigre, Janusz Walus, 40, with murder. Mr Walus was arrested shortly after the shooting in possession of a gun which had been used to shoot Hani.

Police later questioned Clive Derby-Lewis, a prominent South African right-winger and president of the London-based Western Goals Institute, an international anti-communist organisation.

Scotland Yard said last night that two British officers were going to South Africa at the request of the authorities to advise on the investigation. Mr Churchill-Coleman would be accompanied by Detective Inspector Mick Jones, another experienced anti- terrorist officer.

The Foreign Office said Mr Churchill-Coleman was appointed after an approach from Dr Anthonie Gildenhuys, chairman of the National Peace Secretariat. Joe Slovo, a senior ANC official and chairman of the South African Communist Party, said: 'I am very happy about this. The government have obviously acceded to lots of local and international pressure to agree to the participation of objective international experts.' Mr Slovo's name was on a 'hit list' in Mr Walus's possession.

The appointment of the two foreign advisers will place South African detectives under greater pressure to carry out a more rigorous investigation. Police procedures were strongly criticised in a report last summer by Professor Peter Waddington, director of criminal justice studies at Reading University. South African police sources said yesterday that both advisers would have to adhere to normal rules of confidentiality and assist the local investigation instead of carrying out their own inquiry.

Last year, two senior Scotland Yard officers, Commander Tom Laidlaw and Chief Superintendent David Don, assisted an investigation into the police response to the Boipatong massacre, which left more than 40 people dead in a squatter camp. A third officer, Chief Superintendent Peter Stephens, on secondment to the Foreign Office, is in South Africa as a peace monitor.

Mr Churchill-Coleman, 52, the longest serving commander of the anti-terrorist branch, was responsible for co-ordinating anti-terrorist measures throughout Britain.

He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1960 having served in the Army and Surrey police. A career detective with little academic background, he climbed steadily through the ranks without the assistance of a 'fast- track' graduate entry.

In the 1970s he was part of a fraud squad which successfully investigated John Poulson, the corrupt architect. He commands strong loyalty from juniors and won a reputation for patient, painstaking evidence gathering.

ANC leaders, determined to speed South Africa's transition to democracy, put the finishing touches yesterday to a six-week campaign of civil disobedience which the government says could trigger further racial violence, Reuter reports from Johannesburg.

The movement wants a transitional government in place by the end of May and a date set within six weeks for non-racial elections.