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Farmworker testifies in own defence

2021-09-03  Roland Routh

Farmworker testifies in own defence

Roland Routh

A farmworker from the Maltahöhe district took the stand on Wednesday and testified in his own defence to a charge of murder, read with the provisions of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act, over the death of the mother of his four children in the Windhoek High Court.

Frans Abraham (33), pleaded not guilty on charges of murder and attempted murder at the start of his trial before judge Dinnah Usiku. He is charged with killing Elizabeth Swartbooi, and of attempting to kill his then three-week-old son.

According to the charge-sheet, during the period 31 December 2018 and 1 January 2019, Abraham unlawfully and intentionally assaulted Swartbooi by stabbing her at least twice with a knife and by hitting her on the face with the intent to murder her, causing Swartbooi to die on 2 January 2019 at the Mariental State Hospital.

It is further alleged that the assault caused Swartbooi, who was holding the baby during the assault, to drop the baby, causing him to fall to the ground on his head, and that Abraham was directly responsible and thus guilty of attempted murder in this instance.

Yesterday, the accused told the court that the deceased was struck by the knife he was holding in his hand when she stormed at him and tried to “aggressively” push him over a wall in the verandah of the house they shared.

He said after they returned from a New Year’s Eve party at a neighbouring farm, because of the deceased’s jealousy, she told him to go back to the other farm and have sex with the lady she was fighting with. 

After putting his children to bed, he called out to her, and when she did not reply, he put out the candle he had lit previously “as it was not safe to leave a candle burning with children sleeping”. He then went outside to look for the deceased. When he entered the verandah, he heard a scraping sound as if someone was picking up something from the wall, and then saw the deceased with her arm held high and something in her hand. 

He grabbed hold of her right wrist with his left hand, managed to take the object from her, and saw it was a knife. He then let go of the deceased, who stormed at him while his hands were at his side and grabbed him around the neck and on his nose, and tried to push him backwards over the wall. “It must have been during this process that she was struck with the knife I was still holding in my right hand,” he told the court.

He added that when the deceased told him she was hurt, he put a bandage on the wound and the next morning went to look for help, but help only came the next day at around 14h00.

The doctor who conducted the autopsy on the deceased agreed with Milton Engelbrecht, on behalf of the accused, that it is possible that the injury to the deceased’s lower abdomen could have happened as the accused said, and further that the amount of time she waited for medical help could be a contributing factor to her demise. 

Abraham remains in custody at the Windhoek Correctional Facility’s section for trial-awaiting inmates.

2021-09-03  Roland Routh

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