/ 23 April 2008

Confession of a hit man

In the agony of remorse, one of the men arrested for Taliep Petersen’s murder painstakingly wrote out a 15-page confession detailing his role in the murder.

But it was Taliep’s wife, Najwa, who actually pulled the trigger after giving her husband a last embrace, Waheed Hassen said.

The confession was admitted as evidence in the Cape High Court on Wednesday after he dramatically announced that he wanted to change his plea to guilty.

He, his friend Jefferson Snyders, Abdoer Emjedi and Najwa herself all originally pleaded not guilty to the execution-style shooting, which took place in the Petersens’ Cape Town home on the night of December 16 2006.

Hassen wrote out the confession in police cells after his arrest in June last year.

In language that at times seemed borrowed from a crime thriller, he described how Fahiem Hendricks, a friend of Emjedi’s, told him a woman friend of his was suffering mental and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and wanted him killed.

After being promised ”maybe a million or more”, with R150 000 ”up front” from the woman, he agreed, and enlisted Snyders for what he told his friend was going to be a robbery staged for an insurance claim.

He borrowed a gun, and on the night — still not knowing who the woman or the target was — they went to the Petersens’ Athlone home.

‘God is great’

At the last minute, Hassen said, he decided he could not go through with the murder of a man he did not know, and decided instead to give him a ”hell of a beating” and take the money.

Entering through an open door they found Taliep watching cricket on television, and Hassen told him it was a robbery. In a voice that Hassen said was still ”embedded in my mind”, Taliep repeatedly called out the Muslim phrase ”God is great”.

”But greed for money and my childhood memories of an abused father made me go ahead with the punishment I had in mind for this man,” said Hassen, himself a devout Muslim.

After Snyders tied Taliep’s hands behind his back, Najwa emerged from a room and hugged her husband ”as if it was the last goodbye”. However, Taliep headbutted her as though he did not want her close to him, and she helped them tie his feet with a tablecloth.

Najwa led Hassen to a room where she handed him a bank bag, which she said contained R27 000, promising to sort out the rest of the money later. She also led him to the room occupied by her adult son and his wife, who were in bed, and he took cash, watches and cellphones before locking them in.

Though he wanted to look for more valuables, Najwa was now holding his arm, leading him to Taliep, and insisting in Afrikaans: ”You must shoot him, you must shoot him.”

At this point, Taliep was repeating a Muslim declaration of faith: ”There is no God but the one and only God.”


Hassen said he fetched a pink cushion from another room, and, unnerved by the strength of Taliep’s faith, told Najwa to shoot him herself. He folded the cushion over the gun, with his hands on the outside.

”In a split second I felt her hand between mine. One single shot rang through my ears; she screamed. I sank so low it was like a scene from a movie,” he said.

”When I left the house it was very still. I took the magazine out of the gun and pulled the slide back to retrieve the only cartridge and began to chew on it as I was frustrated with myself for becoming an instrument of the murder of a man that did not even fear death.”

In the weeks and months that followed, Taliep’s death haunted him so much that he could not sleep.

One day he actually drove to the Bellville South police station to confess, but changed his mind when he thought that Najwa and Hendricks might then send hit men after him.

He said he gave several thousand rands of the R27 000 to charity ”because I knew if a Muslim killed a Muslim he is cursed, and I felt so every time that I tried to pray”.

He said he begged forgiveness from Taliep’s elderly father and from Taliep’s children, as he knew what it was like to grow up with an absent father. He also begged forgiveness from his own family, the nation and ”all the people abroad”.

Taliep, he said, was ”a giant and hero in our community”.

The trial resumes on Thursday to hear formal admissions by Hassen. — Sapa