Former lovers Rachel Rittmann and Rhyno du Preez should both be sentenced to life in prison for murdering Rittmann's husband at Gobabis six years ago, a public prosecutor suggested in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.
State advocate Marthino Olivier proposed life prison terms for Rittmann and Du Preez when addressing judge Christie Liebenberg during a presentence hearing for the two ex-lovers, who were found guilty on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and defeating or obstructing the course of justice nearly six weeks ago.
On behalf of Rittmann and Du Preez, defence lawyers Johan van Vuuren and Ileni Gebhardt conceded that their clients have been convicted of very serious charges, but argued that life imprisonment would not be appropriate sentences for them.
Both lawyers also reminded judge Liebenberg that Rittmann and Du Preez have been in jail for more than six years already, and asked the judge to take that into account when he decides on their sentences.
Gebhardt further argued that judge Liebenberg should differentiate between the sentences of the two, saying that Du Preez has shown remorse and admitted his responsibility for the crimes, while Rittmann had been the mastermind behind the plan to murder her husband.
Having heard the closing addresses on behalf of the state and defence, judge Liebenberg postponed the sentencing of Rittmann (48) and Du Preez (35) to 22 October.
The judge convicted them on 29 August, when he found that it had been proven that they hatched a plot to murder Rittmann's husband, Rudolph Rittmann (34), and carried out their plan on the evening of 23 August 2013 by killing him in the house where he and his wife were living at Gobabis.
Du Preez and Rittmann both denied guilt on all charges when their trial started in December last year.
However, during the trial Du Preez had a change of heart and made detailed admissions, informing the court that Rittmann, with whom he was involved in an extramarital relationship, suggested that they should kill her husband in order to get hold of expected life assurance policy payouts after his death.
Du Preez also admitted that he stabbed Rudolph Rittmann to death, using a kitchen knife that Rachel Rittmann had handed to him, and that he and Rachel then cleaned the bloody murder scene and loaded Rudolph's body into his bakkie, with which Du Preez transported the body to a spot next to the road between Gobabis and Windhoek.
Du Preez further admitted that he set Rudolph Rittmann's bakkie, with the body still inside, on fire next to the road in an unsuccessful attempt to make it look as if he had died in a road accident.
Rittmann, though, continued to deny the charges throughout the trial. While admitting that she was present when Du Preez killed her husband, she claimed she did not report Du Preez's role in the killing to the police because he had been abusive towards her during their relationship and she was scared of him.
Rittmann and Du Preez were both arrested in Windhoek on the morning of 1 September 2013, after police officers had found Rittmann in Du Preez's bed at a house in Otjomuise.
While Rittmann did not testify in mitigation of sentence yesterday, Du Preez did.
He told the court that, looking back on his actions, he could see they had been morally wrong, and he regretted it.
Turning to face relatives of Rudolph Rittmann where they sat in the courtroom's public gallery, Du Preez apologised to them, saying he was "deeply sorry" and asking them to forgive him.
Du Preez also said he hoped the family would be able to find peace in their hearts and closure in connection with Rudolph Rittmann's death.
When Gebhardt asked him what he has learnt from his experience over the past six years, Rittmann answered: "The most important thing is a man should be led by principles, a man should have vision, and most importantly a man should be God-fearing."
He said he was begging the court to be lenient towards him when he is sentenced, and asked the judge to give him a second chance in life.
He wants to be a law-abiding citizen and to use his life to be an inspiration to other people finding themselves in the same situation as he was, to show them that they should always do the noble thing, Du Preez said.