A death row rapist has died at the Tambo Memorial Hospital under what his friends believe were questionable circumstances.
This was after he was admitted by prison authorities for a medical procedure.
Leon Faasen, whose 1988 death sentence was commuted to a life sentence in 1994, was admitted for a “critical” medical condition on December 13 according to correctional services spokesperson Mocheta Monama.
“The department can further confirm that offender Faasen subsequently passed away on December 26 while in hospital due to natural causes,” said Monama.
However, the 58-year-old’s friends believe this was impossible because Faasen was a fit and healthy person who exercised regularly and was in good shape.
Close friend Yvonne Gardiner, a religious leader and one of the few people who constantly visited him in prison since 1989, said: “I last visited him during the first week of December last year and I can assure you that Leon was a very fit and strong man.
“He took care of himself and exercised regularly so I don’t believe he died of natural causes”.
Gardiner, 81, said she had built a close relationship with Faasen over the years and he regarded her as his mother.
“I have visited many prisoners in my time because that is the work that the Lord called on me to do and that is how I met Leon,” she said. “He regarded me as his mother because I used to buy him things like airtime so that he could keep in touch with his two brothers and two sisters.”
Gardiner said she found out about Faasen’s death when she tried to call him last week Friday and she was told that he had died.
“If I hadn’t called, I wouldn’t have known about his death which is tragic because he was a very healthy and strong man,” she added.
According to his paralegal assistant Lionel Greenberg, Faasen was looking forward to being released on parole.
“Having read the comments by DCS [department of correctional services], with due respect I can’t accept that the passing of Leon Faasen being one of natural causes,” said Greenberg. “Leon Faasen in my opinion was exceedingly fit and in superb health. At no time did Leon complain about any ailment or illness.”
“He was looking forward to being released on parole.”
Greenberg said when he spoke to Faasen in late November 2018, he mentioned that he was having an operation in the area of his groin.
“I immediately contacted the state attorney and I am personally pursuing that an inquest into the death is fully exhausted.”
Faasen was denied parole on three occassions. In February 2011, the parole board recommended that he serve more of his time and undergo counselling sessions with a criminologist, as well as undergoing restorative justice and victim involvement programmes with his victim, who currently lives in a Bloemfontein home for disabled people.
In September 2013, a similar recommendation for therapy was made, while his March 2016 parole hearing heard that he posed a serious risk of reoffending if released.
According to a psychologist and criminologists who examined Faasen, he had “a weak prognosis for rehabilitation, and would continue to be a threat to his community”.