20 February 2013

Namibia: Defence Lawyer Exits Murder Trial

THE trial of the two men accused of robbing and murdering a farmer in the Rehoboth district in June 2007 has hit a snag on only its second day of proceedings in the High Court in Windhoek.

A day after the two accused men, Siegfried 'Dodi' Lewin (32) and Rayno Olivier (31), pleaded not guilty to all charges against them, Lewin's defence lawyer, Boris Isaacks, announced his withdrawal from the trial yesterday.

This is due to changing versions of events which Lewin has been giving to his lawyer.

Isaacks told Judge Naomi Shivute that he has received conflicting instructions from Lewin, and that he is convinced that it would not be in the interest of justice if he continued to represent him.

The Directorate of Legal Aid, which instructed Isaacks to represent Lewin, will now have to instruct another lawyer to take over from him.

The trial was postponed to Monday next week, with the Directorate of Legal Aid expected to inform the court by then if another defence lawyer would be ready to represent Lewin and to proceed with the trial.

Lewin and Olivier are being prosecuted in connection with the alleged murder of farmer Ellis Tjipueja (41).

It is alleged that Tjipueja was murdered when he was shot dead during the period of June 13 to 27 2007.

His wife, Isolda Tjipueja, testified on Monday that she last saw her husband when he left their home in Windhoek on June 13 2007. He was planning to pick up Lewin, and then had to meet one of his brothers at Kalkrand, she said.

She had a last cellphone conversation with her husband later that day, when he told her that he had arrived at Kalkrand, and that his brother had given him N$20 000, she told the court. Tjipueja then disappeared.

On June 27 2007, his burnt remains were discovered lying in a culvert under the gravel road between Rietoog, situated south-west of Rehoboth, and Nabaseb, situated further south.

Lewin was arrested and charged in early July 2007. Olivier was charged near the end of February 2008.

They are charged with counts 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 prosecution is alleging that they murdered Tjipueja at or near Rietoog, robbed him by stealing at least N$20 000, an Isuzu bakkie and a cellphone from him, and tried 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 by extorting money from her.

Both men denied guilt on all charges on Monday.

On behalf of Lewin, Isaacks told the court that self-defence is the basis of his defence to the murder charge - an indication that, at that stage at least, Lewin had instructed his lawyer that he admitted that he killed Tjipueja, but that he also claimed to have acted in self-defence.

Lewin is remaining in police custody.

Olivier, who is represented by defence counsel Winnie Christians, is free on bail.

State advocate Palmer Kumalo is prosecuting.

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