Najwa court hears of blank tapes

The man who sold Najwa Petersen’s family an allegedly encrypted police interview tape is a repeat fraud offender, it emerged on Monday in the Wynberg Regional Court.

The tape, which the family believed would help prove her innocence, turned out to be blank, the court heard.

The man, Riaan Radyn, was last week subpoenaed to appear as a witness in Petersen’s new bail application, launched after both the regional court and the Cape High Court rejected her first bail application.

Magistrate Robert Henney issued the subpoena after hearing evidence that the defence team was granted a high court order to seize alleged copies of official tapes relating to the case from Radyn’s home.

Monday’s hearing was delayed for over an hour as Henney waited for Radyn to arrive, then issued a warrant for Radyn’s arrest.

But soon afterwards Radyn, dressed in blue jeans and a short-sleeved shirt, turned up in court, and told an unimpressed Henney he had been delayed by a fan-belt problem with his car in Ceres.

He told the court he was an ex-policeman who had served in the Rondebosch police station and the VIP protection unit in the 1980s, but was not, as was suggested in court last week, a private investigator.

He said an acquaintance named John van der Berg, who did sound repair work for the police, had asked him to act as middleman in selling a mini-audio cassette to a friend of Petersen’s family, Waleed Ajouhaar, for R2 000.

Van der Berg played him a portion of the tape before the handover, and he heard a voice, which according to Van der Berg was that of investigating officer in the case, Captain Joe Dryden, saying: “You will say or you will write what I tell you to write.”

“He said there was a great deal of incriminating evidence on it [the tape],” Radyn told the court.

He did not know Van der Berg’s cellphone number or address.

Radyn said he gave the R2 000, plus another R3 000 the Petersen’s attorney, John Riley, later gave him for another batch of tapes that never materialised, to Van der Berg and had not heard from him since.

“He vanished like mist before sun, along with the R3 000,” remarked Henney.

Radyn said the first tape, which the defence team still has, could not be played “because the tape is coded”. Van der Berg had told him there were only three or four tape machines in South Africa on which it could be played back.

Under cross-examination by Petersen’s advocate, Herbert Raubenheimer, Radyn changed his story, saying he was in fact given six tapes and a video recording to sell, and that Van der Berg had told him Ajouhaar was to pay R30 000 for the lot.

Questioned by prosecutor Shireen Riley, Radyn admitted that he was fined R30 000 or 18 months’ jail, half of which was suspended, for fraud in September this year.

A condition was that he repay R30 000 to the complainant by December 31. The first R10 000 instalment was due this month.

He also acknowledged another conviction for fraud, in 1992.

At one point, Henney said he should perhaps warn Radyn against self-incrimination, because he could be charged with defeating the ends of justice and fraud.

Ajouhaar, taking the stand, told the court that before he bought the tape, Radyn played a brief snatch of it to him on a machine with an aluminium case.

Radyn told him the machine was an encrypting device used only by sound engineers and the police.

However, when he and Petersen’s son later played the cassette on a phone-answering machine, they could hear nothing.

When he contacted Radyn, Radyn said that for R5 000 he could have the remaining tapes and the special encrypting machine to play them on.

“I think it was actually a blank thing he gave me,” Ajouhaar said ruefully.

The prosecution says no tapes exist of police interviews with witnesses or Petersen and her three co-accused, who are charged with murdering her entertainer husband, Taliep, in December last year.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.—Sapa