06 July 2007

Plans for Petersen’s death

Entertainer Taliep Petersen died only after two previous murder bids, alledgedly planned by his wife Najwa, went awry.


Entertainer Taliep Petersen died only after two previous murder bids, alledgedly planned by his wife Najwa, went awry, Cape Town's Wynberg Regional Court heard on Tuesday.

The claim emerged during a bail application by Najwa and Abdoer Emjedi, one of her three co-accused, in a courtoom packed to the aisles with some 150 family members and members of the public.

The court also heard from a psychiatrist that Najwa suffered from a range of mental illnesses, that she heard imaginary voices telling her to harm herself, and that she stabbed Taliep in the neck last year only hours after being discharged from psychiatric treatment.

Prosecutor Shireen Riley told the court that the State would allege that Emjedi was approached by a former employee of Dirk Fruit Namibia, a business at one stage co-owned by Najwa and her brother, to "get people" to kill Petersen.

Hijacking planned
She said that on December 14 last year, when Taliep returned from a trip to London, Emjedi was supposed to get people to hijack the vehicle in which the Petersens were travelling, kill Taliep and leave Najwa unharmed.

When that did not materialise, Najwa gave instructions he should be killed when he came out of the Luxurama theatre the following day. That also came to nothing, and instead Emjedi arranged for the remaining two accused, Waheed Hassen and Jefferson Snyders, to go to the Petersen house in Athlone on the 16th, where Najwa let them in, and they killed Taliep.

Emjedi, who took the witness stand to testify in support of his bail application, said in reaction to Riley's version of events: "No comment."

He admitted that though he did not have any previous convictions, he was in jail previously for 15 months awaiting trial in a hijacking case, which was eventually struck from the roll.

Najwa, 45, wearing darkened glasses and a brown patterned Louis Vuitton scarf, did not testify in her bail bid.

Major depressive disorder
Instead her advocate Craig Webster handed in an affidavit in which she said she was in a precarious state off health, and had been diagnosed with "chronic severe major depressive disorder with psychotic features", a severe panic disorder coupled with agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces, an anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic insomnia.

Since the beginning of 2004 she had been admitted to the Gatesville Medical Centre or the Crescent Clinic, a specialist psychiatric clinic, 25 times, and towards the end of last year underwent eight courses of electric shock therapy.

"I find myself in severe psychological difficulty since my arrest," she said.

"My incarceration in the cells is unbearable.... I don't believe that I will be able to cope if it is ordered that I remain in custody until a trial is finalised."

Psychiatrist Barry Fortuin, who treated Najwa from March 2003 to May last year, said she heard voices telling her to harm herself, and had repeatedly tried to commit suicide.

After one attempt, a pill overdose, she had to be resuscitated at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Held in Pollsmoor
He said he had visited Pollsmoor prison, where she was likely to be held if denied bail, and believed it could not provide the sort of intense and ongoing psychiatric care she required.

"This kind of environment is completely unacceptable for a mentally ill patient," he said.

He said he was aware only from media reports of an incident described by Riley in which Najwa allegedly stabbed Taliep in the neck on April 13 last year, hours after she was released from Gatesville.

Taliep was rushed to Gatesville for treatment, while Najwa was admitted to the Crescent Clinic the following day.

Fortuin said, however, that people in Najwa's condition were more likely to harm themselves than others.

The other two accused, Hassen and Snyders, are not applying for bail.

They were remanded to August 17; the bail application continues on Wednesday. – (Sapa)

Read more:
Murder linked to mental illness
What fuels family murder?

July 2007


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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