A key state witness in the Taliep Petersen murder trial appeared to have been frank with the court, Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai said on Monday.

He began handing down his judgment, which is expected to last more than a day, just before 10.15am in a packed courtroom.

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

Reviewing the evidence of witnesses, Desai said Fahiem Hendricks, currently in the witness protection programme, was “not an impressive individual”.

He had appeared dishevelled in court and sat in an awkward position because of the bullet proof jacket he was wearing.

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

However, his testimony had been fairly coherent and logical. “He did not convey the impression he was being less than frank,” the judge said.

Hendricks testified that Najwa asked him to arrange a hit on her husband, 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.