20 February 2013

Namibia: A Case of Skullduggery and Murder

Windhoek — In what is reminiscent of a Hollywood movie, allegations of murder and diamond dealings surfaced in the ongoing trial of two men charged with murder.

Isolde Tjipueja, the wife of the deceased and the first State witness to take the stand, made these revelations when she testified in the murder trial of 33-year-old Siegfried Lewin and 34-year-old Rayno Olivier in the Windhoek High Court.

The two men are facing one count of murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances and one count of defeating or obstructing or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice and alternatively violating a dead body.

They are accused of murdering Ellis Mesututjike Tjipueja during the period of June 13-27, 2007 near Rietfontein in the Rehoboth District. They are also charged with robbing Tjipueja of N$20 000 in cash, an Isuzu pick-up truck (bakkie) and a cellphone by using force.

It is further alleged that Lewin and Olivier set alight the body of Tjipueja after killing him and that they threatened witnesses with violence and that they also extorted money from the wife of the deceased, Isolde Tjipueja, through intimidation. Both men pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Isolde Tjipueja, during what seemed to be an ordinary testimony on Monday, however caused a stir in the packed C Court before Judge Naomi Shivute when she revealed that she was summoned to the Rehoboth Police Station by an uncle of Lewin.

She told the court that after she went to consult a relative of hers at the Windhoek Police headquarters, they decided that she should be accompanied by an undercover policeman. She and Chief Inspector Hausab, whom she introduced to Lewin as her step-brother then went to see Lewin, Tjipueja related.

She said that when they arrived at the Rehoboth Police Station, Lewin was brought in and when she asked him who murdered her husband, he instead told her that she should be careful of her in-laws. When she asked what he meant by that, Lewin told her that her dead husband's family offered him N$500 000 to testify in court that she was the one who hired him to kill her husband.

While he at first did not want to identify anyone, she said, he later mentioned the name Werner to her. Werner is the brother of her late husband, the distraught widow who clearly had trouble keeping her emotions in check, revealed.

She further related to the court that Lewin asked her if she remembers how nervous he was when he returned her husband's vehicle to her, saying it was because "Werner was standing around the corner watching them."

According to Tjipueja she was overcome with sadness and said: "Why, oh why would they want to do that to me?" to which Lewin replied that a lot of money was involved and that 'klippies' (gem stones) as he called them, were also involved.

She then told Lewin that if such things were involved, her in-laws should just leave her out of it, since she had no idea what it entailed and that they should just take their things (sic), as she wanted nothing further to do with them, Tjipueja testified.

At that stage the undercover cop also got involved in the conversation, she said, and told Lewin he should tell his lawyer about this and that he could turn State witness, to which Lewin replied that he does not have money for a lawyer and that the witness should help him get a lawyer.

Chief Inspector Hausab, however, told Lewin that while she did not have the money to help him, it would also not be advisable to do so as that could implicate her in the matter, Tjipueja told the court.

Tjipueja further revealed that during March 2008 she received a letter from Lewin, which prompted Lewin's defence counsel Boris Isaacks to object, saying that while the letter was signed by his client he distances himself from the contents since the letter was not written freely and without undue influence.

It was eventually decided by the court that only the fact that the letter was signed by Lewin would be entered (as evidence) for the time being. This letter is apparently the letter in which the extortion demands were made.

Previously the witness testified that while she was waiting for her husband's arrival after he did not turn up as promised she became worried and confided in her husband's brother, Werner, that she wanted to report him missing. However, she testified that Werner dissuaded her on various occasions from reporting her husband as missing and at some stage even told her that he was in contact with one 'Hendrik' who assured him that her husband was safe.

She also said that Werner at one stage even offered to call Hendrik for her, but she refused, since she was only interested in having her husband back with her. She said she became very worried since she could not get hold of her husband during the evening of the day he left and during the next day as well.

However, on the Friday morning she received a text message, which read that he is safe with some Americans and that he would send the car home with the son of Siggie, and also that she must stay home and stay safe.

According to her the message that was in English disturbed her and she therefore called Werner and even forwarded the message to him. She said that what worried her the most was why he did not just say 'Doddie' instead of Siggi's son when he sent the message, since she knew both Siggi and Doddie very well.

Lewin or 'Doddie' only brought the vehicle back to her on the Sunday, the widow said, and he told her that the last time he saw her husband was the Friday when he got into a white Mercedes Benz with some Americans, and that they had driven in the direction of Mariental.

In another tale of the absurd, the witness testified that the elder brother of her husband, whom she identified as Bob called her and left a message at her office for her to call him urgently. She said that she had no idea why Bob wanted to talk to her, since they did not communicate. Tjipueja then related to the court that she again went to Hausab, who advised her not to talk to Bob alone and that she should tape any conversation with him.

She related how she and a friend of her late husband then went to the office of her sister from where she made the call.

"From the time he answered the phone he started insulting me and swearing at me, called me names and told me that I am going to jail because the people whose mouths you tried to seal are now talking," she related to the court. She said that Bob called again the next week with the same threats, but that she just switched off the phone.

In a surprise development yesterday, Lewin's attorney Boris Isaacks withdrew from the case citing contradictory instructions from his client.

Olivier secured the services of Advocate Winnie Christiaans on instructions from Legal Aid, while Advocate Palmer Khumalo is appearing on behalf of the State. The case continues.

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