Namibia: Americans' Murder Trial Goes Into Mini Trial

Judge's gavel (file photo).
16 September 2021

The trial of two American citizens, accused of the assassin-like murder of Andre Heckmair in Windhoek in 2011, is in a trial within a trial to determine the admissibility of a search conducted at a guesthouse room they occupied.

After the State wanted to introduce the evidence of inspector Joseph Ndokosho about searches that were done in the room that produced the barrel, notebook and MTC cellphone starter packs, the defence lawyers objected to the evidence.

Windhoek High Court judge Christie Liebenberg then declared a mini-trial to assess the admissibility of the evidence.

Both Lilian Mbaeva, on behalf of Marcus Thomas on instructions of legal aid, and Mbanga Siyomunji, the private instructed lawyer of Kevan Townsend, objected to the evidence, saying the search was unlawful, as the police officers did not have a search warrant, and their clients did not give consent for the room to be searched.

Ndokosho told the court yesterday that he received a phone call, informing him the two Americans, who were suspects in the murder of Heckmair, was staying at the specific guesthouse.

He further said he could not get a magistrate or a commissioned officer at the time to sign the warrant - and because of the urgency of the matter, he decided to conduct the search anyway.

On a question from Mbaeva as to whether he intended to get a search warrant, he said he tried to but because it was after hours, he could not.

He further told the court that the accused was then arrested because of cannabis that was found in their room and not for the murder. The arrest for Heckmair's murder only occurred later, he stated.

Thomas and Townsend are accused of killing Heckmair with a single gunshot in the head on 7 January 2011 at Gusinde street in Windhoek, and robbing him of his cellphone and wallet, containing a 100 Swiss Franc.

It is further alleged they unlawfully imported two 9mm pistol barrels without a permit or alternatively possessed the 9mm barrels without a license, and the alleged possession of a 7.65mm pistol without a license and unlawful possession of ammunition.

They are further charged with intent to defeat or obstruct the course of justice for allegedly removing a notebook from police custody after the police seized it as an exhibit and/or burned, destroyed or otherwise dispose of some of the pages in the book.

They are facing one count of murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, three counts of contravening the Ammunitions Act and one count of defeating or obstructing or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

The matter is continuing, and deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef is representing the State.

Both Thomas and Townsend remain in custody.

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