A WARNING that men who murder their partners in romantic relationships should expect to be severely punished by Namibia's courts was sent out once again from the High Court at Oshakati on Friday.
The cautionary message emanated from the sentencing of a resident of the Oshakati area, Paulus Tomas, in connection with the murder of his girlfriend a year and eight months ago.
Judge Christie Liebenberg sentenced Tomas (28), who is also known as Iipinge, to 35 years' imprisonment.
On Monday last week, Judge Liebenberg found Tomas guilty on a charge of murder. Tomas was accused of murdering his girlfriend, Johanna Lazarus (22), by bludgeoning her to death with a hoe at Uuthilindindi, a village in the Oshakati area, on November 29 2010.
Lazarus was the mother of a daughter fathered by Tomas, with whom she had been involved in a relationship since 2008, the court was told before the sentencing. The child is now three years old.
Tomas, who denied any involvement in the murder, did not testify in mitigation of sentence after he was convicted.
Due to his silence at the end stage of his trial, the court does not know what the circumstances were that led to the killing of Lazarus, Judge Liebenberg said on Friday.
During the trial Lazarus's sister testified that Lazarus left their house after she had received a cellphone text message from Tomas, who asked her to meet him at a fence outside.
She never returned home. Her mother and sister found her body lying next to a footpath near their house the next morning.
She had died from head injuries, which included several skull fractures. A bloodstained hoe which lay in a field nearby had been the murder weapon, the judge concluded.
On the evening when Lazarus had last been seen alive, Tomas told three people who testified during the trial that he had killed her.
The evidence supports a finding that the murder had been premeditated, Judge Liebenberg said during the sentencing.
With Tomas having remained silent after being found guilty, Judge Liebenberg said, "the only conclusion to reach is that this was a senseless killing where a much weaker and defenceless person, (Tomas's) own girlfriend and the mother of his only child, became the victim of the one who was supposed to protect and love her".
The judge also remarked: "The deceased died a violent death and after the assault was left at her own mercy until she succumbed. It seems unthinkable that anyone could be driven to such anger or rage and is provoked to act in the manner the accused did; yet, he remains unwilling to share that reason, if there were to be any, with the court."
The absence of any indication of remorse on the part of Tomas in these circumstances is an aggravating factor, he said.
Whatever the cause for the assault on Lazarus might have been, Tomas could have walked away from it without resorting to such violence, Judge Liebenberg said.
He noted that the printed media in Namibia reports on an almost daily basis about murders and rape being committed against defenceless women and children all over the country.
"In a significant number of these cases the crimes are committed within a domestic environment where the one, usually the male, turns on his female partner with such brutality and callousness that, more often than not, it shocks society to the core. What has gone wrong with society to have become so inhuman and cruel towards one another?" the judge remarked.
As has been stated before, the message from the courts must be that crimes involving domestic violence in Namibia would not be tolerated and that sentences imposed in such cases would be appropriately severe, Judge Liebenberg said.
Tomas was represented by defence lawyer Frieda Kishi. Deputy Prosecutor General Dominic Lisulo represented the State.