Obituary for Lothar Paul Neethling (1935 - 2005)

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Lothar Paul Neethling

1935 - 2005

General Lothar Paul Neethling was born on 29 August 1935 in East Prussia.

In 1948, Afrikaners who were supporters of defeated Nazi Germany in World War II came up with a plan to adopt as many as 10,000 war orphans. In the event, the German Children's Fund (GCF) managed to finance a group of only 83 orphans who arrived in Cape Town in September 1948. One of them was 13-year-old Lothar Paul Tietz, who was adopted by the GCF chairman, Dr J C Neethling. In turn Lothar Neethling, cutting his ties with Germany soon after his arrival, adopted South Africa as his "new fatherland".

He excelled academically and, having absorbed all the elements of the Boer culture in his teenage years, was fully accepted into the Afrikaner community.

Newspaper reporter Max du Preez claimed Neethling described himself as a "staunch Christian."

Lothar Neethling gained two doctorates in chemistry, one of which was from the University of California. He was a prominent member of the Afrikaans Academy of Arts and Science, which awarded him its gold medal.

More widely, he was regarded as a brilliant scientist and was honoured by a number of international scientific organisations as well as receiving a medal from the government of Taiwan.

In 1971, Neethling founded the South African Police (SAP) forensics unit and in succeeding years was awarded seven SAP medals for forensic work undertaken. By the late 1970s, he had risen rapidly to become SAP's second-in-command, chief deputy commissioner.

On 20 October 1986, following Mozambique president Samora Machel's death in an air crash in South Africa, General Neethling confiscated the aircraft's flight data and cockpit voice recorders at the scene of the crash. Reportedly on instructions from foreign minister, Pik Botha, he then refused to allow International Civil Aviation Organization and SA Civil Aviation Bureau (CAB) crash investigators access to the flight recorders. CAB director, Rennie van Zyl, had to serve a writ on Botha and Neethling before eventually receiving the two recorders on 11 November 1986. The three-week delay in starting the crash investigation was confirmed by SAP Colonel Des Lynch in evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2001.

Lothar Neethling was a highly-qualified scientist; General Neethling was alleged to have used police forensic laboratories for the production of poisons to kill anti-apartheid activists.

Sadly Neethling passed away of lung cancer on 11 July 2005 in Pretoria, at age 69 years.

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