8 June 2018

Namibia: Man Guilty of Murdering Pregnant Teen Girlfriend

A young man who claimed he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed his pregnant teenage girlfriend repeatedly with a knife at Mariental in October 2012 was found guilty of murder and on two assault charges yesterday.

From the evidence heard during the trial of Charles Michael Swartz (24), it was clear that Swartz regularly assaulted his late girlfriend, Sara van der Westhuizen, and that he did not halt that abuse even after she became pregnant with his child, judge Alfred Siboleka remarked during the delivery of his judgement in Swartz's trial in the Windhoek High Court. He also commented that Swartz's account of what happened when he stabbed Van der Westhuizen (16) with a knife at her mother's house at Mariental on 3 October 2012 was so unreasonable that it fell away in the face of credible testimony from prosecution witnesses who contradicted his version of events.

Judge Siboleka found Swartz guilty of murder, committed with a direct intention to kill, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and assault by threat. The prosecution alleged that Swartz assaulted Van der Westhuizen at Mariental during September 2012 by kicking her repeatedly, and hitting her on her back with a steel wire.

The state also alleged that a police officer warned Swartz on 3 October 2012 to stop assaulting Van der Westhuizen. Despite that warning, Swartz went to the house of Van der Westhuizen's parents on the evening of the same day. At the house, he stabbed Van der Westhuizen repeatedly with a knife, with fatal results.

Swartz was also accused of having threatened to kill Van der Westhuizen's grandmother when she tried to come to her granddaughter's rescue.

Swartz claimed during his trial that the stabbing took place after Van der Westhuizen had been rude to him, and had threatened him with a knife. He said he grabbed the hand in which she had the knife, and then stabbed her with a knife which he had carried with him to the house of Van der Westhuizen's mother. According to Swartz, he first stabbed her on the left side of her chest, and then continued stabbing her in her back when she turned and ran into the house in an attempt to get away from him. Van der Westhuizen was stabbed seven times, with a stab injury to her neck identified as having been fatal, a medical doctor who carried out a post-mortem examination on her body testified during the trial.

Van der Westhuizen's grandmother also testified. She told the court she was an eyewitness to the stabbing, which according to her took place after Van der Westhuizen answered a loud knock at the door. She said Van der Westhuizen ran into the house after she had been stabbed the first time, and was stabbed in the back as well while she tried to flee. She also told the court that Swartz threatened he would stab her, too, when she asked him why he had stabbed Van der Westhuizen.

Injured and bleeding, Van der Westhuizen asked to be taken outside, and while that was being done, Swartz again stabbed her, targeting her neck at that point, the witness said.

Swartz was arrested on the same evening. A rope and a note that indicated he was planning to hang himself was found in his possession when he was arrested.

He has remained in custody since his arrest. Swartz, represented by defence lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji, denied guilt on all three charges when his trial began in March 2015.

He has to return to court on 27 June for a presentence hearing.

Deputy prosecutor general Dominic Lisulo is representing the state.

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