Windhoek — One of the accused in the murder and housebreaking trial of three farmworkers accused of murdering their employer and looting his residence testified yesterday that he was threatened by his co-accused to take part in the theft for which he is on trial.
Karel Claasen, 28, told Windhoek High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg that Dion Haraseb, 35, was still armed with the firearm with which he shot Willem Cornelius de Klerk, aged 71, when he instructed him and Zelda Harases, 28, to pack a truck with items stolen from the deceased.
Claasen, Haraseb and Harases 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 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.
Claasen and Harases pleaded not guilty to all charges and said in a plea explanation that they were afraid of Haraseb and merely obeyed him.
Haraseb admitted to shooting the deceased, but claimed it was in self-defence when he was struggling for the gun with which the deceased wanted to shoot him.
He also pleaded guilty to a competent charge of theft instead of the main charge of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft and to the charge of use of a motor vehicle without the owner's consent and the unlawful possession of arms and ammunition.
In his testimony yesterday, Claasen told the court that the deceased sent him to fetch Harases at their quarters and while he was waiting for her to finish dressing, they heard two shots from the direction of the farmhouse.
Shortly thereafter, he said, Haraseb arrived with a Nissan bakkie that belonged to the deceased, armed with a rifle and ordered them to pack up as they were leaving the farm.
He further said that when they saw Haraseb with the firearm, he and Harases ran away, but Haraseb told them to come back as he was not going to harm them.
They then went back to the farmhouse where Haraseb ordered them to pack up items from the house and put them on a truck.
After that, he said, Haraseb ordered him to drive the truck from the farm to Usakos and at the entrance to Usakos, he and Harases, who was his girlfriend at the time and the mother of his infant child, got off the truck and Haraseb drove away.
They then went to a nearby filling station where they got a lift to Windhoek.
He further testified that when they arrived in Windhoek, he found a revolver in his baggage, but he does not know how it got there.
Claasen says he handed the firearm to Harases who in turn handed it to her mother.
He went on to say that he was still in shock as to the happenings at the farm and that it was Harases who told her mother about the incident and the mother then relayed the information to the police.
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 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 represent the three accused.