24 April 2019

Namibia: Police Charge Suspect in Nimt Murders

Photo: Supplied.
TRIBUTE … Nimt staff and students, as well as Arandis residents, lit candles and placed flowers at the place where the institute's executive director, Eckhart Mueller, and his deputy, Heimo Hellwig, were gunned down last Monday. They were shot multiple times at the office's entrance of Nimt's main campus at Arandis when they arrived for work.

Arandis police yesterday charged a person suspected of killing Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (Nimt) executive director Eckhart Mueller and his deputy, Heimo Hellwig, last Monday.

Namibian Police chief inspector Kauna Shikwambi in a police report yesterday confirmed the arrest of a suspect in connection with the matter.

Although the suspect was expected to appear in the Swakopmund Magistrate's Court yesterday, Erongo crime investigations coordinator Erastus Iikuyu told the media that the "person of interest will not appear today [yesterday]", adding that "You will be updated on the matter".

A member of Nimt's interim management team, Ralph Bussel, said although the institute was expected to reopen yesterday after staff and students were given leave last week to work through the trauma, a last-minute call from the police urged that Nimt remains closed as it was still a crime scene.

This, however, did not stop students and residents from lighting candles and placing flowers at the institute where the two were gunned down. A special service is also scheduled to take place on 30 April at the Swakopmund multi-purpose centre.

Meanwhile, a Nimt lecturer who was initially rumoured on social media to be the main suspect in the killing, made his first appearance in the Karibib Magistrate's Court yesterday for being in possession of two .22 bullets without a licence. The bullets were discovered in his car.

Ernst Lichtenstrasser (57) was charged with contravening Section 33 of the Arms and Ammunition Act.

He was one of several 'persons of interest' taken in for questioning by the police last week. They were all released after they could not be tied to the case. Lichtenstrasser was arrested on Thursday, and charged with possessing unlicensed ammunition, which was found in his car when he was taken in for questioning. He had been kept in custody since until his first appearance in the Karibib Magistrate's Court yesterday. Lichtenstrasser told the court that the "conditions of his incarceration were cruel and a serious health risk", and that the police also obstructed his right to contact his lawyer.

"I am also on a hunger strike now until I get to speak to my lawyer or to my wife, or until I am released on bail," he told the court. His case was postponed to 27 May for further investigations, and the state opposed bail because of the "seriousness of the offence, and the risk of the suspect interfering with the police investigation".

Lichtenstrasser showed The Namibian what seemed to be a swollen foot and ankle, which he claimed he sustained when a police officer allegedly stepped on his foot. He further told this newspaper that the ammunition belonged to his wife, and it apparently has a licence.

Asked about how he felt about the killings of his bosses, Lichtenstrasser told this newspaper: "I feel very bad. I only heard about it on Tuesday."

Mueller and Hellwig were murdered last Monday, and the entire country was abuzz with the news shortly after their bodies were discovered.

A 9mm pistol was allegedly used by the murderer to shoot the two in the head and stomach when they arrived for work at 06h00.

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