Namibia: Pause in Nimt Murder Trial

22 February 2021

THE trial over the killing of the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology's two top executives is due to continue in April - a week before the second anniversary of the double murder.

Following four days of court proceedings in the trial last week, during which five state witnesses testified before judge Christie Liebenberg, the matter has been postponed to 6 to 8 April. After that, the trial in the Windhoek High Court is also scheduled to continue in May and June.

A former instructor in fitting and turning at the institute (Nimt), Ernst Lichtenstrasser (59), is being prosecuted on eight charges - including two counts of murder - in connection with the killing of the executive director of Nimt, Eckhart Mueller (72), and his deputy, Heimo Hellwig (60), at the institute's head office at Arandis in the Erongo region on 15 April 2019.

Mueller and Hellwig were both gunned down when they arrived at the Nimt head office before the start of their workday. According to testimony heard so far during the trial, the shooting took place around 06h30.

One of the first people to arrive at the murder scene, where Mueller and Hellwig were found lying in a pool of blood, has told the court she did not see anyone else at the scene at that point.

Lichtenstrasser pleaded not guilty on all charges at the start of the trial on Monday last week.

Defence lawyer Albert Titus told the judge his client chose to remain silent at that stage, except to say he "vehemently denies" that he shot and killed Mueller and Hellwig, while also denying that he committed the other crimes of which he is accused.

Before the trial was adjourned to April, the fifth state witness to testify in the matter, Nimt employee Karolina Tsuses, recounted she was walking to the institute's campus at Arandis at about 06h50 on the morning the murders were committed, when she saw a white double-cab pickup being driven out of the Nimt premises.

The bakkie was travelling fast and was on a road usually only used to take away refuse from Nimt, Tsuses said. She added that she saw the pickup was being driven by a white man wearing sunglasses. She did not get a proper look at the driver's face as the bakkie passed her from the front, Tsuses recounted.

Also during the trial so far, Titus has repeatedly asked witnesses about strained relations between the Nimt management and staff that existed before the double murder was committed.

According to his questions and the answers witnesses have given on that topic, there was tension between the Nimt management and staff members who called themselves a concerned group, and complaints about affairs at Nimt had been relayed to the Anti-Corruption Commission as well.

Lichtenstrasser has been held in custody since his arrest at Karibib on 16 April 2019.

Deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef is representing the state.

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