THE lives of two women whose burnt bodies were found at a Windhoek dumpsite in January 2016 were ended in a gruesome way, a judge remarked when he sentenced the man convicted of having murdered the women to two terms of life imprisonment yesterday.
There can be no doubt that Johanie Naruses (29) and Clementia de Wee (23) died cruel and undignified deaths, especially when considering the hideous way their bodies were disposed of, judge Christie Liebenberg said in the Windhoek High Court during the sentencing of Lukas Nepela Nikodemus on two counts of murder and a charge of obstructing the course of justice.
He also commented that, in view of Nikodemus' decision not to give evidence in mitigation of sentence and not to fully disclose his personal circumstances to the court after he was found guilty, it was evident that he had shown no remorse.
Judge Liebenberg sentenced Nikodemus to a term of life imprisonment on each of the murder charges, and also to an eight-year jail term on the count of obstructing the course of justice.
The sentences run concurrently, with the effect that Nikodemus (49) would have to spend at least 25 years in prison without being found guilty of further offences before he would become eligible to be considered for release on parole.
Nikodemus denied guilt throughout his trial, but was convicted two weeks ago of the murder of Naruses and De Wee, who had both been involved in a romantic relationship with him.
In the judgement in which he convicted Nikodemus, judge Liebenberg found that, although the prosecution's case against him was mostly based on circumstantial evidence, that evidence proved Nikodemus killed Naruses and De Wee by shooting them with his pistol in his car during the night of 6 to 7 January 2016.
The judge further found that, after the two women had been fatally shot, Nikodemus used his car to transport their bodies to a municipal dumpsite near the city's Pionierspark area, where he set the bodies on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence concerning their deaths. Because of the burning of the bodies, Nikodemus was found guilty of obstructing the course of justice as well.
With Nikodemus' denials having been rejected as false, the actual circumstances under which the crimes were committed were not before the court, the judge said. However, he added that the shooting of Naruses and De Wee seems to have been sparked by jealousy.
"Differences between persons in virtually any relationship, moreover when of a romantic nature, are likely to arise, and as independent human beings, we are often confronted with difficult situations which require emotional decision-making - it is simply part of life," judge Liebenberg commented.
He also said: "Namibians have sadly become accustomed to the senseless killing of vulnerable persons in our society, and in too many instances are these murders committed in a domestic setting. There is undoubtedly widespread outrage over these crimes in our society, and despite the courts' warnings to impose heavier sentences, this unfortunate and repulsive conduct continues unabated."
He further noted: "Women, children and the elderly regularly fall prey to brute and cruel murderers who, in the end, are unable to own up or explain their deplorable conduct, like in the present instance."
The courts are under a duty to protect law-abiding citizens and innocent victims of crime, and the only weapon available seems to be to mete out punishment that would deter the offender and others from committing such crimes in future, the judge said. In the circumstances of Nikodemus' case, what was required was to remove him from society so that he would no longer pose a danger, judge Liebenberg commented.
The court was informed that De Wee had a three-year-old daughter when she was killed. Except for her mother, Naruses did not have dependants.
Defence lawyer Kalundu Kamwi represented Nikodemus during the last stage of his trial. State advocate Cliff Lutibezi prosecuted.