Letter: Forgiveness from death row

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The Independent Online
Sir: There are a number of issues in your story headed "Ex-Labour candidate drops threat" (25 October) which I would like to clarify.

No message of warning was smuggled in to me in my solitary confinement cell. Only my mother communicated with me in that way, which she did by wrapping messages in greaseproof paper and inserting them into a thermos flask.

I was not released from 90 days' detention for giving evidence for the prosecution against John Harris. At that stage, I saw him through the eyes of my captors and torturers as a murderer.

I did not threaten in Britain in March 1965 to tell the South African police that I was being asked to perjure myself by retracting my evidence. When threats were made against me, I said I would tell someone in the Foreign Office whom I knew.

I did refuse to sign the prepared statement which retracted my evidence. I consulted the only person close to me in Britain at that time - my mother - and she advised against signing. I mistrusted the people asking me to retract, firstly because I thought it wholly futile, and secondly because I feared entrapment. However, I did sign a statement saying my evidence was unreliable because it was obtained under duress.

John Harris sent a message through Amnesty to me from death row in Pretoria saying that he understood and forgave me. His wife, Ann, repeated that message when she spoke to me a few months later in London. The depth of that undeserved forgiveness moved me profoundly. I saw John in a different light and I came to regret bitterly that I had not been stronger or wiser.

JOHN LLOYD

London WC2

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