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Dimitrios Tsafendas

Dimitrios Tsafendas (January 14, 1918October 7, 1999) assassinated South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of that country's apartheid program, on September 6, 1966. Tsafendas, who was a parliamentary messenger, stabbed Verwoerd with a dagger during a parliamentary session.

Tsafendas, who suffered from schizophrenia, claimed that he had a giant tapeworm inside him, which spoke to him.

He was given a cell on death row in Pretoria Central Prison next to the room in which men were hanged, sometimes seven at a time. Tsafendas remained there for nearly thirty years, and died in a psychiatric hospital at the age of 81. Technically, only the South African State President had the authority to release him.

There is some evidence against the conventional view that Tsafendas was motivated purely by madness. Tsafendas, born in Mozambique of a Greek father from Chania, Crete and a part-black mother whom he never knew, was shunned in South Africa for his dark skin. Shortly before the assassination, Tsafendas, having fallen in love with a coloured woman, applied for reclassification as coloured under South Africa's apartheid laws.

Tsafendas' life is described in the book A Mouthful of Glass by Henk van Woerden (ISBN 1862074429). A play written by Anthony Sher and directed by Nancy Meckler, with Sher in the role of Tsafendas, ran at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2003.

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