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Biko family to fight for ownership of autopsy report

The High Court today granted an interdict against the sale of Steve Biko’s original autopsy report.

Westgate Walding auction house was prevented from selling Steve Biko’s autopsy results as ruled by the High Court in Johannesburg on 3 December 2014. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The family of struggle icon Steve Biko has reacted with disgust after an attempt to sell the original autopsy document, saying the couple who put it up for auction were fuelled by greed.

The High Court in Johannesburg today granted an interdict against the sale which was due to take place at an auction near Melrose Arch.

The court order prevented Westgate Walding auctioneers from selling the item along with other valuable documents from the apartheid era.

The autopsy revealed Biko was killed through torture by security forces in 1977.

It was put up for sale by Clive Steele, whose mother Maureen Steele, was given the document for safekeeping out of fear that it would be stolen by apartheid forces.

Biko's son, Nkosinathi Biko, says although they managed to stop the item from being sold, the family intends fighting for complete ownership of the report.

He says the motive behind Steele's decision to sell the report is questionable.

"I can only assume it all points to a certain level of morality, a hell-of-a-lot of greed and perhaps even a mentality of superiority and entitlement."

About 20 prospective buyers took part in today's Westgate Walding auction which included the sale of apartheid era books and research on South Africa's cultural diversity.

The High Court order ensured the two autopsy reports were pulled from the auction just 30 minutes before the event started.

Steele has not yet been available for comment and Biko has until the end of next month to file court papers contesting the ownership of the report.

The High Court also ordered the cancellation of the sale of Ahmed Timol's autopsy report.

Biko died after being tortured by apartheid security forces in 1977, while Timol died falling out of the 10th floor window of the then John Vorster Square Police Station.

Officers claim he committed suicide but that has been disputed by his family.

It's emerged the sale of report was expected to fetch as much as R100,000 at auction.

The Biko autopsy report was priced between 70 and 100,000 rand while the Timul document was expected to fetch between 20 and 25,000 rand.

Advocate George Bizos has welcomed the court interdict, saying the preservation of the documents essential for ensuring that South Africa's history is remembered correctly.