THE two men accused of robbing and murdering farmer Ellis Tjipueja in the Rehoboth district in June 2007 pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of their trial in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday.
Siegfried 'Dodi' Lewin (32) and Rayno Olivier (31) went on trial before Judge Naomi Shivute on charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, or attempting to do so. In an alternative charge to the last count they are accused of violating a dead body.
The two men are accused of having murdered Tjipueja (41) at Rietoog in the Rehoboth district during the period of June 13 to 27 2007, of robbing Tjipueja by stealing at least N$20 000, an Isuzu bakkie and a cellphone from him, and of trying to hinder the police's investigation into his death by setting his body on fire, threatening and influencing witnesses to keep quiet, and intimidating Tjipueja's wife, Isolda Tjipueja, by extorting money from her.
With Lewin and Olivier pleading not guilty to all charges, Olivier's defence counsel, Winnie Christians, informed the judge that Olivier denies having committed any of the alleged offences or having made common cause with any other person who committed the offences.
Lewin's defence lawyer, Boris Isaacks, told the judge that Lewin's defence to the murder charge is self-defence - an indication that Lewin admits having killed Tjipueja, but that he claims to have done so in self-defence.
Lewin denies having robbed Tjipueja, and on the third charge, he is electing to remain silent at this stage, Isaacks also said.
Mrs Tjipueja is the prosecution's first witness to testify in the trial. She said she last saw her husband on June 13 2007, when he left their home in Windhoek. She said he told her he was going to pick up Lewin, whom they knew since his father had done renovation work at their home, and that he was going to meet his brother at Kalkrand.
She later phoned her husband and spoke to him after he had reached Kalkrand, and he reported that he had met his brother and had received N$20 000 from him, she said.
Subsequent attempts to contact her husband on his cellphone were not successful, Mrs Tjipueja testified.
In the early hours of the next morning, though, she received a cellphone text message from her husband's phone. The message, in English, was: "I'm fine with the Americans. I'll send the car with Siegie's son. Be home and be safe."
By the next day, she said, she started to worry about her husband, and she conveyed this to a brother of her husband, who advised that they should wait a bit longer for him to return home.
Her husband had left home on a Wednesday, and on the following Sunday Lewin brought his bakkie to their home, she testified.
Lewin, who was smelling of liquor, told her that he had last seen her husband get into a Mercedes-Benz with some Americans, and that they had driven off in the direction of Mariental, she said.
She later heard that the body of an unknown man had been found in the Rietoog area. Her husband's family identified the body at a police morgue as being the remains of Ellis Tjipueja.
Lewin was arrested and charged in early July 2007.
By November 2007, Mrs Tjipueja testified, she received a message that he wanted her to visit him in police custody.
She said when she went to see him he warned her to be careful of her in-laws. Lewin also claimed that one of her husband's brothers had offered to pay him N$500 000 if he implicated Mrs Tjipueja by saying that she had sent him to go and kill her husband, she said.
Mrs Tjipueja is due to continue with her testimony today.
State advocate Palmer Kumalo is prosecuting.