23 April 2019

Namibia: New Lawyer for American Murder Accused

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Windhoek — Marcus Thomas who was refused further legal aid from the Ministry of Justice's Legal Aid Department after he went through five lawyers since the start of his trial, was thrown a legal lifeline by Legal Aid after they reconsidered their position and instructed Titus Ipumbu to represent him.

Thomas also lodged an urgent application against Legal Aid, but it was struck from the roll as the judge assigned to the matter had the view that the High Court does not have the authority to order Legal Aid to represent someone. The trial has now been postponed to May 06 to give Ipumbu time to prepare for the trial of two American citizens accused of the assassin like murder of Andre Heckmair in Windhoek in 2011.

It will run from May 6 to 10 this year, Windhoek High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg announced.

Shaun Gariseb of Legal Aid confirmed to Judge Liebenberg that Ipumbu accepted the instructions and the judge made an order that Ipumbu should do so in writing and the confirmation sent to the registrar.

The judge is eager to continue with the trial that had various hiccups starting with a botched escape attempt by Thomas which caused him to hang upside down on a prison facility fence for at least two hours.

After he was freed from the fence, Thomas claimed he fell on his head and suffered brain injuries that made him unable to follow court proceedings.

His then lawyer, Werner van Rensburg asked the judge to refer Thomas for psychiatric observation and was diagnosed by Dr Frederika Mthoko with neuro-cognitive disorder, apparently caused by the fall he suffered during escape attempt from the Windhoek Correctional Facility in November 2014.

The diagnosis was however disputed by the state represented by Deputy Prosecutor General Antonia Verhoef and after further mental observations; three mental experts found that Thomas faked his condition. Clinical psychologist Willem Annandale, clinical psychiatrist Professor Tuviah Zabow and psychiatrist Dr Reinhardt Sieberhagen all agreed that Thomas is guilty of malingering.

Thomas and his co-accused Kevan Townsend are accused of killing Heckmair with a single gunshot in the back of his head on January 7, 2011 at Gusinde Street in Windhoek and robbing him of his cellphone and wallet containing 100 Swiss Franc.

They are facing one count of murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, three counts of contravening the Ammunitions Act and one count of defeating or obstructing or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

The state alleges in count one that they killed Heckmair, who is the son of the owners of the Cattle Baron Steak Ranch, by shooting him assassin style in the back of his head on January 07, 2011 at Gusinde Street in Windhoek. In count two, the state alleges that they robbed Heckmair of his cellphone and wallet containing 100 Swiss Franc.

Count three and its alternative relates to the alleged importation of two 9mm pistol barrels without a permit or alternatively possession of the 9mm barrels without a license. Count four is the alleged possession of a 7.65mm pistol without a license and count five the unlawful possession of ammunition. On count six, they are charged with the unlawful and with the intent to defeat or obstruct the course of justice for removing a notebook from police custody after the police seized it as an exhibit and/or burned, destroyed or otherwise dispose of some of the pages in the book.

Townsend is represented by Mbanga Siyomunji on instructions of Legal Aid and both accused remains in custody.

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