Namibia: Murder Plot Wife's Appeal Bid Fails

11 February 2020

Former Gobabis resident Rachel Rittmann, who is serving a sentence of life imprisonment over the murder of her husband, does not have prospects for success with an appeal against her sentence, a judge has ruled in the Windhoek High Court.

In light of the circumstances in which the husband of life term prison inmate Rachel Rittmann was murdered and the role that Rittmann played in that crime, the sentence that was handed to her was appropriate and justified, judge Christie Liebenberg remarked in a judgement in which he last week dismissed an application in which Rittmann asked to be allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court against her sentence.

Judge Liebenberg noted that the evidence heard during the trial of Rittmann (49) and her former lover Rhyno du Preez (35) clearly established that she was the architect of a scheme to murder her husband, Rudolph Rittmann, whereas Du Preez was the executioner who carried out the killing.

Rudolph Rittmann (34) was murdered on the evening of 23 August 2013, when he was stabbed to death in the house that he and his wife shared at Gobabis. During his and Rachel Rittmann's trial, Du Preez admitted that he carried out the killing, which he said had been planned by Rachel, with whom he was involved in an extramarital relationship at that stage.

After the murder, Du Preez used Rudolph Rittmann's bakkie to transport his body to a spot next to the road between Gobabis and Windhoek, where he set fire to the vehicle with the body inside in an attempt to create an apparent road accident scene.

Rittmann and Du Preez were arrested in Windhoek a week after the murder.

Judge Liebenberg found both of them guilty of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice near the end of August last year. In October, their trial was concluded when Rittmann was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Du Preez received an effective sentence of 34 years' imprisonment.

The grounds on which Rittmann applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against her sentence included arguments that judge Liebenberg made an error when he found that she masterminded the killing and decided when she wanted this to be done, and failed to give sufficient weight to evidence that she had been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and that she has a personality with traits of dependency.

On these grounds, judge Liebenberg remarked in his ruling last week that he found that Rittmann and Du Preez jointly planned the killing of Rudolph Rittmann over a period of months, and that Rittmann had been instrumental in taking preparatory steps like having her husband's will changed, sending their daughter away from their home on the day of the planned murder, calling Du Preez to travel from Windhoek to Gobabis to carry out their plan, and guiding him to the bedroom where Rudolph Rittmann lay sleeping.

According to Du Preez, on the morning of 23 August 2013 she had also bought cleaning materials and gloves to be used to clean up the murder scene, the judge further noted.

He said: "Against this background, I am unable to come to a different conclusion than [Rittmann] having masterminded the killing of her husband and [being] instrumental in the timing thereof."

He also said there was no evidence that Rittmann's mood illness made her less accountable for her actions before the murder or at the time it was committed.

"[T]he court is not persuaded that [Rittmann] has prospects of success on appeal," judge Liebenberg concluded.

Defence lawyer Johan van Vuuren represented Rittmann. State advocate Marthino Olivier represented the prosecution.

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