Two psychiatrists give evidence on the proceedings of David Beresford Pratt’s case

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Dr. Verwoerd speaking just before the assassination attempDr. Verwoerd speaking just before the assassination attempt. Source:: http://wh

Tuesday, 13 September 1960

 On 13 September 1960, during the trial of David Beresford Pratt, two psychiatrists gave evidence about his mental condition. The case was heard at the Supreme Court in Pretoria before Justice Rumpff, Judge-President of the Transvaal (now known as Gauteng).

The Magaliesberg farmer was accused of the attempted murder of the South African Prime Minister, Dr. H. F. Verwoerd at the Milner Park Showgrounds in Johannesburg. On 9 April 1960, Dr Verwoerd opened the Union Exposition to mark the anniversary of the Union of South Africa. After his opening address, he took his seat. Shortly afterwards, a man in his 50s, Pratt, walked up to him and fired two shots into his face.

The first psychiatrist to be called on the witness-stand said Pratt suffered “episodes” of severe depression and had “suicide impulses”. The second psychiatrist, Prof. L.A. Hurst, said Pratt had suffered from fits from the age of eight. According to Hurst, Pratt battled with both grand mal and petit mal seizures.

References:
• The Star, (13 September 1960), ‘Prof. Hurst tells of Pratt interview’, [Available at the National Library of South Africa, Cape Town Campus] pg 1
•  Smith, M., 2010. ‘Opening Pandora’s Apartheid box-Part 21 The Assassination of Dr. Verwoerd’from Mike Smith’s Commentary, [online] Available at www.mspoliticalcommentary.blogspot.com ;[Accessed 14 July 2011] 

Last updated : 12-Sep-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 31-Aug-2011