Book Review – Under Devil’s Peak

by Gavin Cooper (Mercury) ISBN: 9781928230366

Born in 1926, Wilfred Edward Cooper came from humble beginnings. After attending Wynberg Boys High School where he excelled in sport and academics, he studied Law at Stellenbosch University. HF Verwoerd and JB Vorster were both studying there at the same time. He developed a style that would earn him the nickname ‘Tiger’ when he came to the bar to examine witnesses.

Wilfred always treated people as equals regardless of their stature. In the ’60s he was involved in numerous political affairs including defending Demitrio Tsafendas, Verwoerd’s assassin. He also defended Marthinus Rossouw in the scandalous murder of Baron van Schauroth. Wilfred defended the SWAKO 6, as well as Steve Biko and other political activists, some of whom died in their cells by hanging. He also defended the scissors murderess Marlene Leihberg.

Wilfred and Gertrude, his gregarious wife, enjoyed a wonderful social life in their Newlands home. They chose to live under Devil’s Peak that was relocated under the Group Areas Act. Wilfred chose to defend the underdog who had very little chance under apartheid rule, often not earning as much as he could have. He wrote books and lectured. He eventually became a highly respected judge after having a distinguished legal career.

Gavin Cooper, who is Wildred’s son, has written a warm, interesting and enlightening account in this biography. It is informative and worthwhile reading.

Dawn Blankfield

Posted on: 26th September 2016