/ 16 April 2008

Petersen case readies for trial within a trial

The trial of the four people accused of murdering theatre personality Taliep Petersen has been adjourned to Friday to allow the state to prepare for a battle over the admissibility of confessions.

On trial are Petersen’s wife, Najwa, and three men she allegedly hired to carry out the December 2006 execution-style slaying.

Two of the men, Waheed Hassen and Jefferson Snyders, made statements after their arrest in which they admitted involvement in the killing.

However, Hassen’s advocate, Patrick Scott, told Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai on Wednesday morning that his client maintained his statement was made under ”undue influence” and had not been voluntary.

Pressed for detail by Desai, Scott initially said there had been a threat of assault.

Moments later he rose again, saying he now recalled his instructions from Hassen. ”It was an assault and a threat to assault. My instructions are at the time he was arrested he was assaulted,” he said.

According to Hassen, the assault was allegedly committed by the arresting officer, an Inspector Mashaba.

Snyder’s advocate, Roelf Konstabel, said his client had been ”improperly influenced” by a Captain Morris.

”He was told to make a statement on the basis that he would get off more lightly in the case, and if he did not do it, it would be an aggravating factor,” Konstabel said.

Snyders also alleged that certain of his rights, particularly the right to legal representation, were not properly explained to him.

Prosecutor Susan Galloway told the judge that the names of the policemen were given to the state only on Tuesday afternoon, and she asked for the postponement to consult with them.

There would in essence be a trial within a trial over the admissibility of the statements, she said.

She said the rest of the state’s witnesses in the trial were ”short”.

Earlier, Desai read into the record a report compiled by the state on the court’s on-the-spot inspection last week of the Petersens’ Cape Town home, the scene of the killing.

The report noted that in the first-floor lounge, where Taliep was shot in the head, the mark of the bullet was still visible in the tiled floor. — Sapa