Windhoek — The murder and housebreaking trial of three farmworkers accused of murdering their employer and looting his residence continued last week, with a firearm expert testifying that the version of one of the accused that the gun went off while he and the deceased were struggling for possession could not be true.
Dion Haraseb, 35, who pleaded guilty to the murder of Willem Cornelius de Klerk, aged 71 at the time, told the court in a plea explanation that while they were fighting for possession of a rifle that the deceased wanted to shoot him with, two shots went off accidentally and fatally wounded the deceased.
However, ballistics expert, Frederick Nel, told Windhoek High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg that the weapon in question is not a repeater, but one has to cock it every time a round is fired. This, he said, is inconsistent with the version of Haraseb that the two shots were fired accidentally as he had to cock the rifle after the first shot was fired.
Haraseb together with Karel Claasen, 28, and Zelda Harases, 28, face a charge of murder, two counts of housebreaking with intent to steal and robbery with aggravating circumstances; a count of robbery with aggravating circumstances; use of a motor vehicle without the owner's consent; attempting to or obstructing the course of justice; possession of firearms without a licence and possession of ammunition.
Haraseb alone pleaded guilty to the murder charge, the use of a motor vehicle without the owner's consent charge and the arms and ammunition charges and not guilty to the rest of the charges.
Claasen and Harases pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of their trial.
According to Haraseb, his co-accused were not with him when the murder was committed and he forced them to steal the items involved.
He told the court that they did not break into the residence of the deceased, that the place was unlocked and they just helped themselves.
His co-accused told the court the same story. It is alleged that they killed De Klerk in common purpose.
The three accused were all employees on De Klerk's farm, Villa Rosa, located some 47 kilometres from Usakos in the Erongo Region.
De Klerk, who lived alone after his wife died earlier in 2015, was shot twice with his own firearm, which the accused had allegedly stolen from his vehicle on October 19, 2015.
The prosecution is alluding that Claasen and his co-accused tried to obstruct the course of justice when they dragged De Klerk's body from where he was killed and dumped him in a water tank.
They allegedly covered his body with various objects in the tank.
Furthermore, the accused discarded the spent projectiles from the scene and hid all the firearms with the purpose of misleading the investigations that De Klerk was killed in Swakopmund.
The charges are that after the killing, Claasen and his co-accused robbed De Klerk, loaded the stolen items in his truck and drove off. The loot included two rifles, gas bottles, clothes, sheepskins, food, a digital camera and cash.
The accused abandoned the truck between Usakos and Karibib and went in different directions, each with some of the stolen properties.
The trial continues today.
Claasen and Haraseb remain in custody at Windhoek Correctional Facility after their bail was cancelled for not attending court, while Harases is free on a warning.
Government-sponsored defence lawyers Mbanga Siyomunji, Ileni Gebhardt and Mese Tjituri are representing the three accused.