Namibia: Covid-19 Delays Double-Murder Trial

The trial of Ernst Lichtenstrasser, who is accused of killing two senior managers at the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) in Arandis, was put on hold yesterday after his legal aid lawyer had to go into isolation after contact with a Covid-19 patient.

Windhoek High Court before Judge Christie Liebenberg had to postpone the matter to 28 June after he was informed that Albert Titus had to self-isolate and would not be available for the foreseeable future.

The matter was supposed to resume after Lichtenstrasser and Titus examined the exhibits the state wish to produce in the trial. The trial was also delayed after a witness, Abel Nyambe, learnt at the last minute about the passing of his sister.

Lichthenstrasser, at the start of his trial, pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, two counts of possessing a firearm without a licence, and further charges of possessing ammunition without a licence, defeating or obstructing the course of justice, theft and the unauthorised supply of a firearm and ammunition.

He did not provide a plea explanation; Titus confirmed the pleas and told the court his client will make use of his constitutionally guaranteed right to remain silent and put the onus on the State to prove each and every allegation against him.

The prosecution alleges that Lichtenstrasser, a former lecturer at the Tsumeb campus of NIMT, shot and killed Eckhardt Mueller and Heinz Heimo Hellwig, who were the executive director and deputy director of NIMT, respectively, at Arandis, in April 2019.

Mueller and Hellwig were gunned down at the entrance of the NIMT offices at the Erongo mining town.

It is alleged that before the tragic shooting, Lichtenstrasser was employed at the Tsumeb campus of the institution for a couple of years, which was close to his residence at Otavi and was unhappy about a decision to transfer him to the Keetmanshoop campus.

However, it is stated, the two victims were steadfast in their decision about the transfer, despite his remonstrations.

The indictment further reads that Lichtenstrasser and his son went target practising on Saturday 13 April 2019 at a friend's farm with an unlicensed and illegal 9mm pistol and ammunition. It is further stated that the next day, he drove to Arandis, where he overnighted in the desert.

During the early morning hours of 15 April 2019, he waited for the arrival of the two victims at the entrance to the NIMT premises at Arandis, as it was their habit to drive together to the

campus.

Upon their arrival, he fired shots at them with the illegal 9mm pistol and both died at the scene due to injuries sustained by the gunshots.

It is further alleged by the State that Lichtenstrasser then fled the scene and drove into the desert, where he disassembled the pistol and buried it together with a holster and 18 live bullets in the ground in an attempt to frustrate the investigation of the murders and to hide or destroy evidence connected to the crimes.

It is further alleged that during 2016, he stole a firearm barrel from a gunsmith's business premises in Grootfontein. During the same year, he was also in unlawful possession of a shotgun and supplied one of his workers with the shotgun and ammunition without the required licence, authorisation or permit.

Lichtenstrasser remains in police custody at the section for trial awaiting inmates at the Windhoek Correctional Facility.

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