22 November 2017

Namibia: Verdict Over Killing of Poacher in January

An Okahandja area farmer who was prosecuted on charges of murder and attempted murder after a shooting incident in which a poacher was killed early last year can expect to receive the verdict in his trial in the Windhoek Regional Court in January.

Magistrate Alexis Diergaardt postponed the delivery of her judgement in the trial of farmer Kai Rust, who is charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder, to 23 January after she received written closing arguments from public prosecutor Filemon Nyau and defence counsel Jan Wessels yesterday.

In his arguments, Nyau asked the magistrate to find Rust guilty on all four charges. Wessels asked for the opposite - that Rust should be acquitted on all charges, and also should be found not guilty of culpable homicide.

Rust (45) denied guilt on all of the charges when his trial started at the end of May this year.

The prosecution is alleging that he murdered Andreas Ukandanga (41) by shooting him at a farm north-east of Okahandja on 27 January last year, and that he also attempted to murder three other men who were in Ukandanga's company when they made a poaching excursion to the farm where the shooting took place.

Testifying during the trial, Rust said he did not see any people present at the scene where Ukandanga was shot before he fired a shot in the direction of a dog he had found on the farm, intending to scare off the animal. After the first shot, he saw three men suddenly running away from the scene, fired two more shots into the air, and then shot a dog that remained on the scene. When he went towards a rock where the dog had been standing, he found a dead kudu, which was being slaughtered, and also a man who had been fatally wounded, Rust related.

While the medical doctor who examined Ukandanga's body during an autopsy recorded that there were two laceration wounds on his left shoulder and a penetrating wound high on the left side of his back, a forensic scientist from the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia concluded that Ukandanga had been struck by fragments of a bullet that ricocheted off a hard object, such as a rock.

In his written arguments, Nyau remarked that it was improbable that Rust would not have seen four people at the scene of the shooting, but would have been able to see a dog.

While agreeing that Ukandanga had been in a crouching position when he was struck by a ricochet bullet, Nyau argued that his head must have been exposed and visible for him to be struck by the bullet fragments.

Rust approached the scene armed and in absolute silence, intending to catch a suspected poacher, and he showed a total disregard for the life of another human being by shooting at the four men, Nyau also argued.

Wessels took aim at the police's investigation of the case, and the conduct of the investigating officer and public prosecutor during the hearing of a bail application by Rust in the Okahandja Magistrate's Court in February last year, and argued that the investigation was manipulated and lies and invented evidence were fed to the presiding magistrate to ensure that Rust was not granted bail.

Considering that background, he argued, magistrate Diergaardt should take extra care in evaluating the versions of some of the state's witnesses - especially the three poachers who were with Ukandanga, and were the subjects of the attempted murder charges.

Wessels also argued that someone in a crouching position behind the rock where Rust found Ukandanga and the dead kudu would not have been visible from the spot where Rust was, about 41 metres away, when he fired the four shots.

Rust's version "carries the distinct sound of the truth", and the court could safely accept it, Wessels said.

Rust was kept in police custody for a year and five months after his arrest, before he was granted bail of N$40 000 in July this year.

His bail has been extended to 23 January.


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