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14 Apr 2008 17:17
Murder accused Najwa Petersen not only hired hit men to kill her husband, Taliep, she even arranged to let them into the family home to do the deed, the Cape High Court heard on Monday.
Fahiem Hendricks, who is in witness protection, was testifying in the trial of Najwa and three men charged with Taliep’s execution-style shooting on the night of December 16 2006.
Speaking in a voice that was at times barely audible, he told the court that Najwa asked him to find someone to do the job for her.
“Najwa explained to me who the hit must be done on, and where it must be done,” he said.
“She said it was [to be] on her husband, Mr Taliep Petersen.”
She told him that the reason she wanted Taliep dead was that he had been involved in a deal that lost money, that they were going to get divorced, and that if they divorced he would get half of everything she owned.
He also said Najwa tried to arrange for the hit to be carried out as a staged hijacking on two earlier occasions, and afterwards cooked up a story that he and she were involved in an illicit diamond deal to explain to police the string of cellphone calls they made to arrange the killing.
Hendricks, who wore a bullet-proof jacket under a tracksuit top, was escorted into the courtroom by three burly plainclothes guards from the witness protection programme.
He took off a pair of dark glasses and lowered the hood of his tracksuit top only once he was inside, and Judge Siraj Desai ordered that no one—media or members of the public—try to take photographs of him.
Prosecutor Shareen Riley told the judge that Hendricks might incriminate himself on all the charges, and Desai said he would be indemnified from prosecution if he answered all questions satisfactorily.
Hendricks, who at the time of the killing had just started a fast-food outlet, told the court he had known Najwa for over 20 years, that his brother had worked as a truck driver for her father for a period, and their children went to the same Cape Town primary school.
Some time after the school closed for the December 2006 holidays, Najwa phoned and asked to meet.
He went to the Petersens’ home in Athlone and sat with Najwa in her dining room.
“She asked me if I know someone who can do a hit,” he said.
Asked by Riley what he understood by “hit”, he replied: “To kill somebody.”
Abdoer Emjedi, accused number two in the case, was staying with him at his home while going through a divorce, and Hendricks asked Emjedi if he knew anyone who could do the job.
When Emjedi eventually told him he had found someone, Hendricks went to see Najwa at her home.
She told him Taliep was then in London, but that when he returned, she would “buzz” the front gate of the property to let the killers in.
She said they would be paid R100 000, part of which was a sum of R30 000 they would find in a safe in the house.
After Taliep’s return, Najwa phoned Hendricks to say they would be at home on the evening of December 16, that Taliep would either be watching television upstairs or be downstairs in his studio and that Hendricks should arrange for “the people” to come.
He in turn phoned Emjedi to let the hit men know.
At about 11pm on the night of December 16 he had a call from Najwa.
“She asked if the people were on the way.
I said yes, the people are on the way, you can open the gate.”
Hendricks said that after the killing he and Najwa were repeatedly questioned by police, and would meet after each interrogation to compare notes.
He made a statement to police after deciding to tell the truth.—Sapa
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