Police issue warning on cabinet member's suicide


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Police urged the media Friday to restrain from speculating about the mysterious suicide of white South African cabinet minister John Wiley and said they will hold an inquest into the death.

In a statement issued by police headquarters in Pretoria, authorities referred to unspecified rumors concerning the death of the environmental affairs minister and said some of them already had been proved false.


Wiley, the only white non-Afrikaner in President Pieter Botha's cabinet, shot himself in the head Sunday at his home in the Cape Town beach suburb of Noordhoek.

Since the suicide, newspapers have reported a close friend of the minister, deep-sea diver David Allen, committed suicide Feb. 25, hours before he was to stand trial on charges of engaging in homosexual acts with juveniles.

Beyond reporting the friendship, however, the press has not speculated on the reasons for Wiley's suicide. One newspaper changed its planned story Friday after the police statement was issued, an editor at the paper said.

The suicide could embarrass the government, which is facing a national whites-only election May 6. Wiley had already launched his campaign for re-election in his Simonstown constituency.


Botha visited Wiley's family the day of his death and issued a tribute to the minister.

The family has refused to speak to reporters. They advertised that the funeral would be held Saturday but the ceremony, attended by Botha and senior members of the cabinet, took place Wednesday. No explanation was given for the early service.

The South African press is governed by more than 100 stringent regulations in addition to sweeping regulations issued last year under the country's state of emergency, which allows the government to seize newspapers.

The police statement said, 'It has become evident that rumors surrounding the death of the former minister are being willfully spread.

'It is also obvious that attempts are being made to cast a slur and to link Mr. Wiley's death with the death of other persons,' the statement said.

Shortly before his death, Wiley said in a statement to the Port Elizabeth Evening Post that he went with Allen and others on a three-day fishing trip to Bird Island, off Port Elizabeth, earlier this year.

'The police wish to emphasize that from the evidence available at this stage, there is no evidence whatsoever to substantiate any of these rumors.

'In fact, it has already been established beyond any doubt that some of the rumors are blatantly false. A full public inquest into Mr. Wiley's death will follow in due course and all relevant evidence will be publicy tested.


'The police therefore urge the media and others concerned to restrain from spreading any unsubstantiated and untested rumours and to await the outcome,' the police statement said.

Police so far have refused to confirm or deny reports by neighbors that Wiley was visited by two police colonels shortly before he shot himself.

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