I fled out of fear, says prof in TV sex sting

Weekend Argus

Reporter: Beverley Brommert & Helen Bamford


Former University of Cape Town College of Music associate professor Graham Fitch has spoken out about the accusations, made on television, that he had sex with under-age boys. The British-born pianist was accused on camera on SABC3′s Special Assignment of having sex with under-age boys. Child rights activist Linda Ambor, in whom the boys confided, said on the programme she had reported Fitch three times to the authorities. After the programme was aired in June, Fitch’s lawyer said they would be taking legal action against the SABC. But Cape Town journalist Hazel Friedman, who made the expose, said this has not yet happened. On July 15, Special Assignment did a follow-up broadcast in which it was claimed Fitch confessed to colleagues he was a crack addict and had used male prostitutes. They urged him to go into rehabilitation. As associate professor at UCT, Fitch gave recitals to considerable acclaim, which earned him an international reputation. His main contribution to the department was to mentor and train budding keyboard performers. He recalls the allegations of criminality started with an apparently innocuous phone call from “Debbie Green”, who claimed to belong to the Pasella team. She asked to interview Fitch on trends in musical education at tertiary level. “I agreed, and a rendezvous was arranged at the SA College of Music,” says Fitch. “I duly arrived, then received a call to the effect that I should rather go to the Baxter Theatre for some coffee while we waited for the cameraman. Ms Green, who turned out to be Friedman of Special Assignement, introduced me to a friend who was to join us. ‘This ‘friend’ was Linda Arbor, who is involved with a charity for street-people. After quite some time Debbie Green, alias Hazel Friedman, returned to say there was a problem with the interview as I was under investigation for sex with minors.” His immediate reaction was: “There must be some mistake, you’ve got the wrong person.” Ambor opened a file, asking if he “knew this person”. “At that point I simply left. And on my way to my car, two young men followed me. I began to run in panic – I thought they were going to attach me. As I was running, I was filmed without my knowledge by a cameraman who was out of sight. That, apparently, was all the proof of so-called guilt that was needed – I was supposed to defend myself when the folder was brought out, and instead I took to my heels. That is what was subsequently shown on TV. I feel my departure under the circumstances was a normal reaction.” Friedman says confronting Fitch on camera was not an easy decision. “I do not relish arranging interviews under a pretext, but had we approached him directly, he would have refused to talk to us.” She said Special Assignment began investigating Fitch in 2006, after several children confided in Ambor. “After seeing him repeatedly picking up street kids, a Central City Improvement District security employee independently traced his car registration to UCT. The police contacted the university in June 2007, and was told not to take action because ‘an arrest was imminent’. “Special Assignment had delayed exposing him since 2006 because I did not want to compromise the police investigation. I have been in contact with the investigating officers throughout and it was only when I became fearful the assaults were escalating that I took the decision to expose him,” Friedman said. She said she stood by her story, as she had witnessed Fitch picking up street kids, something she would be prepared to testify to in court. Friedman said she confronted Fitch 10 days before the expose was broadcast. “But, despite my repeated messages, he did not return my calls. It was only the afternoon before the programme was due to be broadcast on June 3 that his lawyers contacted us and threatened to sue. By then, unbeknown to us, he had already left the country a week before broadcast.” In explanation of why the television team approached him in the first place, Fitch goes back to last year, when he handed his computer in for repair to remove some viruses. “I gave it in to a shop in Claremont and it was returned the next day. That was when thunderous knocking at my door brought Scorpions into my house, accusing me of child pornography. There was an extensive search. DVDs, CDs, my camera and my computer were removed. “But the chief inspector in person apologetically returned all my goods.” After the scandal, Fitch resigned from the Collgege of Music and joined his family in England before going to teach and perform in New York. “My departure may have looked like guilty flight, but it was nothing of the sort,” he says. “Feelings run high were abused children are concerned, and I was really in fear for my life. I didn’t feel safe in Cape Town, and left accordingly. I was never in hiding from the police, and I made myself available to the investigating authorities as well as to UCT.  I was at liberty to travel to and from South Africa, which proves there were no grounds for genuine suspicion. The case was referred to the Sexual Offences Court’s senior prosecutor, who declined to prosecute me on any charges. Investigations have taken place at the highest level, and the police are satisfied there is no reason to arrest me. I have no criminal record. I resigned my post at UCT, as I could not imagine ever leading a normal life in Cape Town again.” At the time UCT said it had intended to convene a committee of inquiry to investigate and test the allegations, but Fitch had resigned first. Police spokesman Superintendent Andre Traut said the court withdrew the case due to lack of evidence. He said the victims’ identities were unknown, and they could not be traced to provide evidence. But Friedman maintains Fitch has not been exonerated. “The prosecutor has explained to the investigating officer she is not proceeding ‘for now’ for the simple reason it has been very difficult to round up the victims to interview them.” Friedman said the prosecutor had wanted the children re-interviewed, but Ambor had been away and the children did not trust anyone else. She said the police had told her the investigation was not closed. “The fact that the prosecutor has not proceeded does not exonerate Fitch.”

Taliep shot at point blank range


Cape Town – Forensic and ballistic analysis indicated that the shot fired at entertainer Taliep Petersen was from point blank range, the Cape High Court heard on Tuesday. Free State private forensic pathologist Leon Wagner testified for the defence at the trial of Petersen’s widow Najwa, and the three co-accused charged with Taliep’s murder. Wagner testified on Petersen’s behalf. After Wagner had completed his testimony presiding Judge Siraj Desai said it was unfair for Petersen’s co-accused not to also have the benefit of a privately appointed forensic pathologist, simply because they did not have the financial resources available to Petersen. For this reason, the Judge ordered the legal aid authorities to appoint a private forensic pathologist to represent the three co-accused – at Legal Aid Board expense. Petersen’s one co-accused, Waheed Hassan told the court earlier that he was to have fired the fatal shot at Taliep but that he had at the last minute changed his mind and instead gave the firearm to Petersen herself. Hassan said the gun was wrapped in a cushion to muffle the sounds when Petersen fired the shot at her husband. Wagner told the court that both the ballistic and forensic analysis confirmed that no cushion was used in the shooting at all. He said soot marks were found on the neck wound, which would not have been there had the firearm been muffled by a cushion. He added: “It is my expert opinion that no cushion was used in the shooting.” He used a large magnifying glass to examine forensic photographs of the murder scene as well as photographs of the gunshot wound in the deceased’s neck. At one stage of the hearing, when the Judge borrowed Wagners magnifying glass, Wagner said: “It’s an old Sherlock Holmes method – it worked then and it works just as well today.” The case continues.

Najwa: Diamond story not a lie


Cape Town – Najwa Petersen on trial in the Cape High Court for the murder of her show business husband, Taliep on Monday denied that her story about giving a close friend polished diamonds to sell for her on the black market was a fabrication. Petersen has told the court how she assisted her friend Fahiem Hendriks with loans for as much as R10 000 or more and once by giving him valuable polished diamonds to sell for her on the black market. Prosecutor Shareen Riley reminded her of Hendriks’ evidence earlier that the diamond story was a fabrication. Attorney fee She replied: “That’s what he says.” Riley questioned her about R20 000 she had given to Hendriks (not a loan). Petersen said Hendriks had wanted to consult an attorney and wanted the attorney to accompany him during police questioning concerning the murder. She told the court: “The lawyer wanted R20 000 for him to be present during questioning.” She said it was because of her he was being questioned. She said the money was given by her father. Asked by presiding Judge Siraj Desai why she (or her father) had paid for Hendriks to consult a lawyer, she said it was because Hendriks did not have any money himself. The Judge persisted: “But why did you pay the money?” Locked in room with phone She said she thought R20 000 was a fair sum for what the lawyer was expected to do. Petersen said Hendriks had covered for her about the diamond story, because both he and she were under the mistaken impression that the diamond transaction had been illegal. Petersen said she “did not think of it that way” when asked if she had not considered it strange for the two intruders in her home to lock her into a bedroom that had a landline telephone. Petersen said she had received R30 000 insurance money for her husband’s wrist watch and ring that were stolen during the robbery on the night he was shot dead. She said the watch and ring had not been covered by insurance, but she had nevertheless included them on the insurance list of items stolen from the house. The case continues on Tuesday.

Najwa still under cross-examination


Reporter: SAPA

Najwa Petersen told the Cape High Court on Thursday of her shock when police came to her home to question her the day after she allegedly shot dead her famous husband, musician Taliep Petersen. Petersen claims that she was asleep in her bed when two intruders entered into her home, one of whom stormed into her bedroom and pressing a gun against her head demanded money. She said she was later locked in her bedroom, when she heard a shot being fired. Najwa and three co-accused are on trial for the murder before Judge Siraj Desai. She denied she had any part in the murder at all. On cross examination by prosecutor Shereen Riley, she described the police’s questioning to the court. She said the questioning took about an hour and that the investigating officer who handled the questioning wrote down everything she said. She said it was not explained to her why she was being questioned, but she was asked during the questioning about the happening the night before, when her husband was shot dead. Asked if she felt like a suspect or a witness during the questioning, she replied: “I don’t know how I felt, I was shocked and traumatised.” Riley asked why during the questioning she had informed the investigating officer about her medical history. Riley wanted to know what relevance her medical history had. She said she could not remember. Riley asked her why she told the police about her suicide attempt. She replied: “I don’t know if i spoke about my attempted suicide in conversations, or whether I was questioned about it. I can’t remember, I don’t know.” The hearing continues.

Bellville South cells ‘are not safe’

Reporter: Fouzia van der Fort

Two men accused of being involved in a driveway robbery syndicate and arrested three months ago on fresh charges are claiming that the Bellville South police cells are not safe. On Wednesday, in the Wynberg magistrate’s court, their advocate, Adrian Samuels, told magistrate Hafiza Mohamed the cells were “not a place of safety”.  Mohamed remanded Kurt Geduld, 24, and Nizaam Francis, 25, as well as Ashraf Schouwtz, 24, to Bellville pending an identity parade on August 2. Geduld and Francis had been out on bail since their initial arrest on more than 150 charges almost two years ago.
They were arrested again, with Schouwtz, on April 8 on charges of armed robbery, after a gun was found in a confiscated car. The two are part of a group of 19 who face more than 150 charges including attempted murder, 35 counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances, more than 100 fraud charges and charges of contravening the Riotous Assemblies Act. They are accused of being involved in a string of driveway robberies in Claremont between November 2005 and October 2006. The 19 are set to appear in the Wynberg regional court next month. On Wednesday the accused in a separate case also refused to be sent back to the Bellville cells, saying they feared being assaulted. Geduld, Francis and Schouwtz will return to the Wynberg magistrate’s court on August 4.

Lugwaardin gevonnis oor diamantring

Die Burger

Verslaggewer: Carryn-Ann Nel en Illana Frantz

KAAPSTAD – Niks is verniet nie. Dit was die woorde van ‘n landdros gister aan ‘n voormalige SAL-lugwaardin wat gevonnis is nadat sy sowat drie jaar gelede ‘n passasier se diamantring gesteel het. Linda Charity Danie (30) het gister strak en skynbaar emosieloos voor haar gekyk toe sy ‘n boete van R1500 opgelê is. Landdros David Tonisi, van die Bellville-landdroshof, het Danie ook gevonnis tot tien maande tronkstraf wat vir vyf jaar opgeskort is. In die tyd mag sy haar nie aan diefstal skuldig maak nie. Danie is vroeër onskuldig bevind op twee ander klagte van diefstal wat verband hou met die buitelandse valuta wat sy sou gesteel het van dieselfde passasier wie se ring weggeraak het. Sy is in Mei 2005 aangekeer nadat die passasier se ring van R10000 en buitelandse valuta van R20000 in haar besit gevind is.

Adademikus bedank na ‘laster’ oor straatkinders

Die Burger

Verslaggewer: Ilse Fredericks

KAAPSTAD – ‘n Akademikus van die Universiteit van Kaapstad (UK) teen wie beweringe van die seksuele misbruk van straatkinders gemaak is, het uit sy pos bedank. Die beweringe is vroeer vandeesmaand deur die adtualiteitsprogram Special Assignment gemaak. Die UK het in ‘n verklaring gesê ‘n komitee van ondersoek sou die beweringe ondersoek en toets. “Die personeellid het egter bedank en die UK het die bedanking aanvaar.” Die komitee van ondersoek sal dus nie byeengeroep word nie. Die adademikus het in ‘n verklaring gesê die inhoud van die program oor hom is heeltemal onwaar en uiters lasterlik. Hy het gesê die beweringe is voorheen deur die polisie op die hoogste vlak ondersoek en geen bewyse kon gevind word nie. Ten spyte daarvan het die beweringe uitgebreide mediadekking geniet en is sy reputasie en waardigheid geskend. Hy het gesê hy het “met huiwering en hartseer” besluit om onmiddellik uit sy pos te bedank. Die Burger het vroeër berig die akademikus beplan om die program se vervaardigers en ander partye wat in die betrokke episode beweringe teen hom gemaak het, vir laster te dagvaar. Sy prokureur, mnr. Keith Gess, het gister gesê die proses is nog nie aan die gang gesit nie, “maar ons sal dit waarskynlik doen”.

Agterstand in strafhowe: Praktiserende regslui doen self oplossing aan die hand

Die Burger

Verslaggewer: Philip de Bruin


Die wat snags aangekeer word, kan dadelik verskyn

KAAPSTAD – Naghowe vir Suid-Afrika om die geweldige agterstand in strafsake te probeer wegwerk, kan eersdaags ‘n realiteit wees. Drie advokate van Johannesburg – advv. Sharise Weiner SC, Donovan Smith en Shajda Mahomed – is die dryfkrag agter die stigting van sulke howe. Hulle het al ‘n volledige voorstel in verband daarmee en voorstelle hoe bestaande wette aangepas kan word om daarvoor voorsiening te maak, aan al die prokureursordes van die land, die Prokureursorde van Suid-Afrika (LSSA), die Algemene Balieraad van Suid-Afrika en die Regshervormingskommissie van Suid-Afrika, gestuur. Die idee is dat al die land se strafhowe – landdroshowe, streekhowe en hoër howe – 24 uur per dag in sitting sal wees, maar met dienende advokate, prokureurs en anders regsgeleerdes uit die private sektor as regters, landdroste, staatsaanklaers en openbare verdedigers. Van sulke regslui sal voorts verwag word om die nag-hofwerk gratis te doen, sodat die naghowe byna geen bykomende uitgawes vir die reeds swaar geteisterde departement van justisie sal hê nie. Net hofstenograwe sal deur justisie voorsien moet word en hofordonnanse deur die polisie. Prof. Marinus Wiechers, oud-rektor en -hoogleraar in die reg aan Unisa, het gister gesê hy beskou Wiener-hulle se “inisiatief as briljant en iets wat beslis verwelkom moet word. Mits die onafhanklikheid van die regbank behoue bly, is die idee van naghowe ‘n praktiese oplossing vir ‘n baie ernstige probleem. Wat vir my veral treffend is, is dat die idee vir die naghowe spontaan uit die geledere van praktiserende regslui gekom het. Dit bewys dat die private regsberoep nie net handjies gevou wil terugsit terwyl die howe spartel nie. Hulle sê: ‘Kom ons hou op kla en mor en doen iets’. Die regering het nou al ‘n dekade gehad om die situasie op te los, maar nog nie regtig iets reggekry nie. Die regering mag dus nie hierdie voorstel afmaak nie. Dit moet ernstige aandag kry.” As hy gevra word om self by so ‘n hof betrokke te raak, sal hy dit doen, sê Wiechers. Hy waarsku egter dat daar baie praktiese hekkies in die pad lê van sulke naghowe. Weiner het egter gister gesê sy en haar kollegas is heeltemal bewus van die potensiële struikelblokke. “Ons sal natuurlik eers die volle samewerking van al die prokureursordes, die LSSA en die Algemene Balieraad moet kry. In ‘n mindere mate sal justisie en die polisie ook hul samewerking moet gee. Ons het reeds terugvoering van die regskommissie gekry, wat nie ons voorstel summier afgeskiet het nie. Hulle oorweeg dit in samewerking met justisie.” Een van die praktiese voordele van naghowe is dat misdadigers wat op heter daad betrap word, dadelik hof toe gevat kan word en dat die saak daar en dan afgehandel kan word sonder dat die verdagte tot jare lank as verhoorafwagtende in ‘n tronk aangehou hoef te word. Justisie het enkele jare gelede op ‘n proefgrondslag by sekere landdroshowe met ‘n stelsel van naghowe begin, maar dit het ‘n stille dood gesterf.

Najwa’s new star lawyer ‘double-booked’ for trial dramas

The Argus

Reporter: Ella Smook

Najwa Petersen’s latest heavy-weight lawyer appears to have made a high-profile double-booking in taking on the case. Senior advocate Johann Engelbrecht assured the Cape High Court yesterday that he would be ready to proceed when the Taliep Petersen murder trial resumes on July 28. But on the same day he is also due in the Pretoria High Court, where he is defending Cezanne Visser, aka “Advocate Barbie”, in her sensational trial on sex charges. Visser has pleaded not guilty to 15 child-sex charges, including rape, indecent assault and the manufacture of child pornography. Engelbrecht’s instructing attorney in the Petersen trial, Reaz Khan, could not be reached for comment on the apparent clash. In the Cape High Court yesterday, Judge Siraj Desai reluctantly allowed the postponedment after Petersen, accused of masterminding the murder of her husband, lost the services of a third advocate because of a “lack of funds”. Judge Desai placed it on record that any further change in legal representation by Petersen, or “other conduct which may undermine the smooth functioning” of the trial court, would leave Petersen having to conduct her own defence and “face the consequences”. The State opposed the lengthy postponement, saying that the court could not continue indulging “the whims of one accused” whose hiring and firing of senior counsel seemed to have become “a pattern”. Counsel for Abdoer Raasiet Emjedi, Waheed Hassen and Jefferson Snyders also indicated that they were unhappy with the postponement. Hassen and Snyders said they would object if Petersen changed counsel for a firth time. Judge Desai questioned how, if Petersen’s previous advocate, Klaus von Lieres und Wilkau, had withdrawn because of a “lack of funds”, she could afford to appoint new senior counsel. Engelbrecht replied that the withdrawal of Von Lieres was not simply a financial matter, but would not give further details about an implied breakdown in the relationship between Petersen and her former advocate. Engelrecht has starred in a number of high-profile cases in recent years. He represented Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene Terre’blanche. He appeared for the State against Scorpions prosecutor Gerrie Nel; for Pieter Viljoen, who was charged with the murder of his pregnant wife; and for Mark Scott-Crossley, who was convicted in the case of a labourer “thrown to the lions”. Engelbrecht said that with his appointment, Petersen had finally “succeeded in obtaining senior counsel of her choice”. Judge Desai slammed the actions of Petersen, saying they had caused the disruption of court rolls and were a grave prejudice to her co-accused, the family of the victim and the criminal justice system as a whole. He said he was getting the impression that Petersen was employing a “stratagem to gain a tactical advantage” and that such actions warranted the attention of roleplayers in the legal system. Petersen, Emjedi, Hassen and Snyders have been in custody since last June and have pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy to murder and other charges related to the slaying of Taliep Petersen.

Najwa se top-advokaat bedank glo oor geld

Die Burger

Verslaggewer: Carryn-Ann Nel

KAAPSTAD – Een van die land se voorste senior advokate, wat mev. Najwa Petersen verteenwoordig, het kort voordat die verdediging gister sy saak moes begin, sy dienste beëindig. Adv. Klaus von Lieres und Wilkau SC het gister in ‘n verrassende wending in die hoggeregshof hier gesê hy onttrek hom weens “‘n tekort aan instruksies” aan die saak. Mev. Petersen word aangekla van die moord op haar man, Taliep Petersen. Mnr. Reaz Khan, die opdraggewende prokureur, het later aan die media gesê dit is weens ‘n tekort aan geld. Khan verteenwoordig steeds vir mev. Petersen as opdraggewende prokureur. Von Lieres und Wilkau is die derde advokaat wat mev. petersen se verdediging behartig het. Adv. Craig Webster en mnr. Norman Snitcher het haar eerste borgtogaansoek behartig. Adv. herbert Raubenheimer SC en mnr. John Riley het daarna probeer om haar op borgtog vrygelaat te kry. Al die pogings het voor streeklanddros Robert Henney misluk. Familielede van Taliep, sowel as die families van die ander beskuldigdes in die saak (mnre. Abdoer Emjedi, Waheed Hassen en Jefferson Snyders), het na die hofverrigtinge gesê hulle is teleurgesteld met die nuwe verwikkeling. “Ons soek antwoorde. Ons a familie wil hê die saak moet klaarmaak,” het mnr. Igsaan Petersen, Taliep se broer, gesê. Mev. Petersen, geklee in ‘n wit-en-swart kolletjiesrok en swart kopdoek, het gisteroggend bekommerd gelyk toe sy in die beskuldigdebank ingeskuif het. Von Lieres und Wilkau het onmiddellik nadat die verrigtinge begin het aan regter Siraj Desai gesê sy mandaat is Vrydag beëindig. Hy het kort daarna die hof verlaat. Khan, wat ‘n toga by ‘n staatsaanklaer geleen het, het die regter toegespreek en gevra dat die saak tot Vrydag uitgestel word. Hy is ook bevoeg om namens mev. Petersen in die hof te verskyn, al is hy nie ‘n advokaat nie. Die regter het daarop gewys dat mev. Petersen reeds drie keer van regverteenwoordigers verander het. Volgens hom sal die uitstel baie partye benadeel, waaronder die hof, die staat en belangstellendes in die saak. Khan het aan Desai gesê sy opdrag van mev. Petersen is dat sy ‘n advokaat versoek. Desai het Khan gvra om weer instruksies van mev. Petersen te aanvaar “omdat ek (Desai) gaan beveel dat u aangaan met die saak”. Die stelling is met luide applous uit die openbare galery begroet. By Khan se terugkeer het hy gesê: “Mev. Petersen dring aan op ‘n advokaat.” Khan het bygevoeg dat hy nie self voorbereid was vir gister nie en nog ‘n verweer moet voorberei. Volgens Desai kan die afleiding gemaak word dat dit ‘n taktiese onttrekking is. Khan het gesê daar is geen kwade trou van sy kant af nie. Indien die hof die uitstel toestaan, sal hy teen Vrydag gereed wees. Desai het hierop gesê die hof kan nie as gyselaar gehou word weens die “grille” van een beskuldigde nie en het die saak tot vandag uitgestel. Hy het Khan daarna gemaan om ‘n besluit te neem oor wat die volgende stap sal wees. Teen druktyd gisteraand het Khan aan Die Burger gesê: “Ons het nog nie besluit wat ons gaan doen nie, en ek is besig om dit met my kollegas te bespreek. Ons sal wel môre (vanoggend) weet en dinge dan verder vat.”