The defence lawyers of two American citizens accused of the assassin-like murder of Andre Heckmair in Windhoek in January 2011 totally destroyed the evidence of a State witness in a mini-trial.
The trial is to determine the admissibility of a search at the bed-and-breakfast they were staying in.
After former sergeant Christopher Namboga testified about how they attended to the search of the room of Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend, first Laura Pack, on behalf of Thomas, and then Mbanga Siyomunji, had a field day with the witness.
Pack questioned the methods used to enter the room and said the witness’ statement and his vocal evidence differ so greatly that it seems to be two separate incidents.
While in his statement, Namboga stated that they forcefully entered the room, in his testimony before court, he said that they used ‘verbal force’ to make the Americans open the room. She further wanted to know from Namboga if any consent was asked from the occupants of the room to conduct a search, to which he answered that he does not know.
With regards to the failure to obtain a search warrant before the search, the witness answered that it was due to the urgency of the matter, the fact that the Americans were foreigners and were mobile.
Siyomunji was even less courteous in his approach. He flat-out accused Namboga of being untruthful.
According to him, the statement he made was not a true reflection of the events.
At some stage, Judge Christie Liebenberg, who presides over the matter, had to remind Siyomunji that a statement by a witness does not have to be detailed as it is a mere summary of what transpired, and a witness may be allowed to elaborate during his testimony, as long as there are no material discrepancies in the statement and oral evidence.
The lawyer hammered Namboga on the reason why they could not obtain a search warrant and said it was plainly because they did not have grounds for a warrant. The witness could only concede that they did not have enough time for a search warrant.
The mini-trial is on the legality of the search at the guesthouse where the accused were staying when they were arrested, particularly on the items that were seized.
The defendants object to the admissibility of the exhibits because they claim the search was done unlawfully without a search warrant. The State contends that the search was done lawfully because there was no time to wait for a search warrant as the accused could have destroyed the evidence during the time they would be looking for a magistrate to sign the warrant.
Thomas and Townsend 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 State alleges that they killed Heckmair, who is the son of the owners of the Cattle Baron Steak Ranch, by shooting him execution-style in his head on 7 January 2011 at Gusinde Street in Windhoek.