News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

Najwa’s maze of contradictions

Sandiso Phaliso

Wearing a carefully co-ordinated outfit but without her trademark tinted spectacles, Najwa Petersen appears in the Cape High Court for the last time as sentencing is passed. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso/WCN                              Reams of news pages have focused on convicted murderer Najwa Petersen over the last two years, ever since she was fingered as a suspect in her husband, much loved musician Taliep Petersen’s death on the night of December 16, 2006. Yet despite our fascination with what would cause someone to organize the murder her own husband, in the home they shared, and being subjected to days of scrutiny in the dock, she remains an enigmatic figure.

Her own family have been reticent, and friends who knew her well before the murder have not been very forthcoming. Admittedly, this may be due to their concerns over jeapordising the trial by speaking on matters that could have been deemed as sub judice.

Probably the most revealing personal information to emerge was what was put before the Cape High Court by forensic criminologist Irma Labuschagne, who presented her findings to Judge Siraj Desai before sentencing.

Labuschagne painted a picture of a complex woman who seemed to contain a number of contradictions behind her closely guarded public persona – a personality trait in keeping with bi-polar disorder, a condition she had been medicating for decades.

Bi-polar disorder sufferers experience intense depression as well as intense euphoria, sometimes at the same time. A person’s judgement can be severely affected during bouts of mania.

Labuschagne said Najwa told her that although she had been married twice previously, Taliep was the only man she ever really loved. Yet she carefully orchestrated his death, possibly in order to cash in on a life insurance policy which would paid out R5.3 million.

Yet Labuschagne said she found no pattern of greed in Najwa’s history.

Najwa had also shown an ability to cope with adversity, having coped with looking after herself and two small children after divorcing her first husband, and eventually becoming a successful businesswoman.

In fact she was the breadwinner in the house, despite Taliep having been a popular musician and performer.
She said Najwa told her that Taliep was a good husband and father, but lacked good business sense, forcing her into the role of provider.

“She was the one with the money. She never got the recognition that she kept things going. She was a very sharing person.”

And although Najwa maintained a stoic appearance throughout her trial, only once crying in public when she was declared guilty, Labuschagne said Najwa was not as impassive as she looked and often wept during their long interviews.

She told the court that the medication Najwa had been taking for so many years to keep her bi-polar disorder in check may well have had long term “mind-altering” effects.

This argument was in fact taken into account by Judge Desai when handing down his 28-year sentence to Najwa, less than the minimum life sentence many expected.

The Petersens were also experiencing serious marital difficulties before the murder took place.

In April 2006, eight months prior to Taliep’s murder, Najwa stabbed him. Although Taliep refused to lay a charge despite the advice of his friends, he moved Najwa out of the marital bed and, by all accounts, her four stepchildren turned their backs on her.

Labuschagne said she imagined the hurt this must have caused Najwa, even if it was brought about by her own doing.

She relates Najwa stating that after the stabbing “I took an overdose of tablets. I was so bad that I was eventually sent to Groote Schuur (hospital).

When I was taken to Crescent clinic at Kenilworth, Taliep visited me. He was loving and always calling me darling or sweetheart.”

Yet it would seem his forgiveness did not extend to inviting her back into the bedroom.

Surprisingly, the Taliep’s grieving relatives have also spoken well of Najwa, saying she was a good wife, mother and friend – until April 2006 that is.

Perhaps the rejection by her family caused by the momentary loss of control that caused the stabbing led to jealousy over the attention Taliep subsequently denied her and gave to his own children, hurt over the lack of acknowledgment of her own financial contribution, and greed over a R5.3 million life insurance policy, is what set the gears in motion.

But in the end, only Najwa knows why she took the life of a husband she professed to love, someone who was also a much-loved son and father, and, for many of us, a beloved cultural icon.

SIDEBAR: Najwa sentenced to 28 years for Taliep’s murder

Sandiso Phaliso

On Wednesday this week Najwa Petersen was sentenced in the Cape High Court to 28 years in prison for the murder of her husband Taliep. Najwa also received 10 years, to run concurrently, for robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The court ruled that she, together with Abdoer Emjedi and Waheed Hassen were guilty of orchestrating Taliep’s death on the night of December 16, 2006.

Taliep was killed by a shot to the head while he was lying, bound, on his lounge floor in his and Najwa’s home in Athlone. The court was not able to determine who pulled the trigger.

Emjedi and Hassen were both sentenced to both sentenced to 24 years in prison for Taliep’s murder, with a concurrent 10-year sentence each for robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Hassen also received an additional one-year prison term for the unlawful possession of a firearm.

A fourth accused, Jefferson Snyders, who was found not guilty of murder but convicted of robbery with aggravating circumstances, was sentenced to 10 years, three years of which were suspended for five years, leading to an effective seven year spell in jail.

Desai said Snyders had shown regret for his actions and had not known that his co-accused were planning to murder Taliep when he accompanied them to the house on December 16.

Tags: NajwaPetersen, TaliepPetersen

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