11 January 2011

Namibia: American Denies Knowing Heckmair

KEVIN Townsend, one of the men the Police are questioning in connection with the murder of André Heckmair, yesterday denied knowing Heckmair, claiming he first heard the name after his arrest.

"I don't know who that is," Townsend said while smoking a cigarette outside the Windhoek Magistrate's Court after his first court appearance.

Townsend (24) and with his fellow accused, Marcus Kevin Tomas (25), are two American citizens who were arrested on drugs charges on Friday.

Tomas and Townsend are the only names so far mentioned by the Police in connection with the investigation into Heckmair's murder, which took place on Friday. Heckmair was scheduled to return to his studies in Europe on Saturday after a holiday spent with his family in Namibia. Heckmair was found slumped behind the wheel of a Land Cruiser in a cul-de-sac in Klein Windhoek on Friday at noon. He died of a single shot to the head.

The prompt investigation launched by the Police led them later that day to a guest house in Windhoek West, where they arrested Tomas and Townsend on drugs charges, based on the N$66 worth of dagga found in their possession.

The Police admitted that the dagga charge was a chance to keep the men in custody while investigating the murder case and their links to Heckmair.

Deputy Commissioner Silvanus Nghishidimbwa, who was present at the court yesterday, remained mum on the information that had led the Police to Tomas and Townsend.

He said so far, the Police have been unable to locate the murder weapon or the cellphone and wallet containing at least N$1000 that were missing from Heckmair's car.

Townsend, whose upper body, neck and hands are covered in tattoos, told the Police that he is a resident of New York, while Tomas told Magistrate Helvi Shilemba that he lives in Los Angeles.

Both men complained to the Magistrate that since their arrest on Friday, they have not been given any opportunity to contact family, friends or legal counsel.

"My family doesn't know I've been arrested. I haven't been able to contact anyone," Townsend told Magistrate Shilemba.

"No one knows. No attorney. No family. No access to our contacts or our embassy," Tomas said after his court appearance.

While the Police were guarding them outside the court's holding cells, Tomas accused the arresting officer of manhandling them during their arrest.

"We have been physically abused by the arresting officer. I was told to go to hell, to burn in hell by the arresting officer," he claimed, before the Police removed reporters from the room.

Magistrate Shilemba yesterday informed the accused that their case is being postponed to January 31 for further investigation and to give them a change to obtain legal representation. The magistrate also informed them that they have the right to request a formal bail application.

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