Witness in Najwa trial described as being 'frank'

The state notched up an important victory early in the Taliep Petersen murder judgment on Monday when its key witness was found to have been “frank” in his testimony.

Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai said Fahiem Hendricks, the man who allegedly recruited Taliep’s killers, had been subjected to a long and gruelling cross-examination by defence lawyers.

Though some discrepancies had emerged, as was inevitable, the essential features of his testimony had remained intact.

Desai said he was acutely aware of the need to approach Hendricks’s evidence with caution.

Hendricks had been warned as an accomplice, and was in a witness protection programme.

However, his testimony had been fairly coherent and logical.

“He did not convey the impression he was being less than frank,” the judge said.

Desai was less complimentary about Hendricks in other ways, describing him as “not an impressive individual”.

He had appeared dishevelled in court, sat in an awkward position because of the bullet proof jacket he was wearing, and never looked at the advocates who were questioning him.

Desai quoted another witness describing Hendricks, who ran a takeaway on the Cape Flats, as “classless”, adding: “The latter being a comment not entirely without merit.”

The judge began handing down his marathon ruling just before 10.15am in a packed courtroom, and is expected to carry on until at least Tuesday.

Taliep’s widow, Najwa, is on trial along with three men she allegedly paid to carry out the hit on her entertainer husband.

Hendricks testified that Najwa asked him to arrange the killing, and that he in turn asked her co-accused, Abdoer Emjedi, to arrange it.

He also said that after the killing he and Najwa agreed to lie to the police to explain their phone contact in the days leading up to the murder.

Taliep was shot through the neck in the Petersen family home in Athlone, Cape Town, on the night of December 16 2006.

As Desai read out his judgement, Najwa, wearing a black headscarf, looked on impassively.

She did, however, show rare emotion earlier when she was brought up to the dock from the below-ground-level cells, grasping the hand of her senior counsel Johann Engelbrecht as he apparently wished her strength.—Sapa

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