13 June 2019

Namibia: Widow's Ex-Lover Says She Plotted Murder

The former lover of a Gobabis woman accused of having plotted to have her husband murdered nearly six years ago gave damning testimony against her this week, telling a judge that she hatched the plan that led to her husband's death in a knife attack in his home.

"She was a willing participant, if not the mastermind of everything. If it was not for accused number two, the deceased would still have been alive to this very moment," Rhyno du Preez said from the witness stand in the Windhoek High Court on Tuesday.

This was after he had given a detailed account of the development of a romantic relationship with his co-accused, Rachel Rittmann, and what he said was her plan to have her husband, Rudolph Rittmann, killed.

Du Preez also said: "Today, I have first-hand experience that love does not kill. I have been in a relationship with accused number two, whereby she knew exactly how I felt about her. And she made use of that fact for her personal desires."

Du Preez (35) and Rachel Rittmann (48) are being prosecuted on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and defeating or obstructing the course of justice. They both denied guilt on all four of the charges when their trial began in December last year.

The state is alleging that they murdered Rudolph Rittmann (34) in his house at Gobabis during the evening of 23 August 2013, and they thereafter tried to conceal the crime by cleaning up the scene and transporting Rudolph's body in his bakkie to a spot on the road between Gobabis and Windhoek, where Du Preez set the vehicle, with the body inside, on fire.

In March this year, following a change in his legal representation, Du Preez made an extensive admission to the charges, without going as far as changing his plea to admit guilt. However, he admitted that he and Rittmann plotted to kill her husband, and that they carried out their plan on 23 August 2013, when he stabbed Rudolph Rittmann to death.

Following those admissions by Du Preez, Rittmann continued to deny having been involved in a murder plot when she testified in her own defence in April. In her testimony, she told judge Christie Liebenberg that Du Preez murdered her husband in her presence, and claimed she helped him, and stayed silent about the killing because she was afraid of him.

Du Preez told the court on Tuesday and yesterday that he and Rittmann met each other through Facebook in May 2012. A whirlwind romance followed, and during June 2012, he moved in with her at Okahandja.

It was not all smooth sailing with their relationship, though, and Rittmann left him heart-broken twice when she returned to her husband at Gobabis, Du Preez recounted.

However, he and Rittmann still stayed in contact and their relationship continued, and during a meeting in Windhoek in December 2012, she aired the idea of having her husband killed, Du Preez said.

On 22 August 2013 - when they thought Rudolph Rittmann's will had been changed to leave half of his assets to her - the two of them agreed that the plan to murder her husband should be carried out the next day, Du Preez testified.

He recounted that he travelled to Gobabis that evening, and after his arrival at the town, Rittmann guided him to her and her husband's home.

Du Preez said she let him into the house, took him to the bedroom where Rudolph Rittmann was sleeping, and after he and her husband had a tussle, she fetched a knife from the kitchen when Du Preez asked her to do that.

"I then stabbed the deceased in the chest from behind. I cannot recall how many times I stabbed the deceased. It could be four, it could be five - somewhere in that range."

Du Preez continued: "Later on, when the body of the deceased got limp, I got up and saw that the body was lifeless."

He said he and Rittmann went to buy bottled water, which they used to clean the scene, since the water in the house was disconnected at that time, and then loaded Rudolph Rittmann's body in his bakkie, with which Du Preez drove towards Windhoek.

He moved the body to the driver's seat of the bakkie near a turn-off to Dordabis, let the vehicle run off the road, and then poured petrol over it and set it on fire, before he made his way to Windhoek, Du Preez said.

Rittmann was visiting him in Windhoek when they were arrested early during the morning of 1 September 2013.

Du Preez completed his testimony yesterday. The trial is scheduled to continue on 19 August with the hearing of oral closing arguments from the state and defence.

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