NIMT double murder accused applies for bail

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NIMT double murder accused applies for bail

Ernst Lichtenstrasser, accused of shooting and killing two top executives of the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology, is testing his luck for a third time, hoping to be released on bail.

Lichtenstrasser (60) has filed a bail application in the High Court. 

This follows after the lower court denied him bail on two occasions. 

Motivating his application before judge Claudia Claasen yesterday, Lichtenstrasser said he needs to be released on bail so he may properly prepare for his defence in his ongoing trial. 

He noted the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected his case, as he was unable to consult with his lawyer nor receive documents as a result of the Windhoek Correctional Facility having been placed on lockdown twice last year.

Lichtenstrasser testified he does not foresee the trial concluding anytime soon, as only 14 out of 112 State witnesses have testified so far. 

“I am innocent, your honour. I am in a position where I cannot prepare for my trial. My wife’s life is going to pieces and also mine,” said Lichtenstrasser. 

According to him, due to his incarceration, his wife is now stigmatised and he is suffering from extreme anxiety. 

Lichtenstrasser believes the State’s case against him is weak. 

He noted there is no eyewitness and although based on the disclosure the victims were shot at close range, no blood splatters or gun residue were found on his clothes.

“These are all fabrications by the police, and it puts a question mark in the whole investigations,” said Lichtenstrasser. 

However, Deputy Prosecutor General Antonia Verhoef said the circumstantial evidence, coupled with DNA evidence, indicates the state has a strong case against Lichtenstrasser, which could result in a conviction and consequently a lengthy sentence. 

Verhoef noted the risk is now higher of Lichtenstrasser absconding than it was during his first bail application in the lower court.

Verhoef rubbished claims that there has been undue delay to finalise the case. 

Lichtenstrasser has been in police custody since his arrest on 16 April 2019. 

He is on trial on two counts of murder, two charges 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.

The prosecution is alleging that Lichtenstrasser, a former lecturer at the Tsumeb campus of NIMT, shot and killed Eckhardt Mueller and Heinz Heimo Hellwig, who was the executive director and deputy director of NIMT, respectively, at Arandis on 15 April 2019. 

Mueller and Hellwig were killed when they 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.