A man who ran over his wife with a car and caused her death at Oshivelo in the Oshikoto region nine years ago, was convicted of murder in the Oshakati High Court on Thursday.
Judge Johanna Salionga convicted Petrus Heita on a charge of murder without a direct intent to kill, and driving a vehicle without a valid driver’s licence. The court, however, acquitted him on the charge of negligent or reckless driving.
Heita was charged with his wife Helena Penomwene Heita’s death after she passed away at the Onandjokwe Hospital a few days after he ran her over with his white Toyota bakkie at Oshivelo on 21 March 2014.
The State alleged that on the day in question, Helena (26) was holding onto the car’s bonnet when Petrus started gradually speeding the vehicle. Helena allegedly held onto the car until she eventually fell from the car, and Petrus drove over her body.
Helena was admitted to the Tsumeb State Hospital, where she was attended to by Dr. Lynet Ndlovu. The doctor had testified that Helena was in hypovolemic shock, had bruising on the right quadrant of the abdomen, and had difficulty breathing. Furthermore, she was very pale, and her condition was critical.
Ndlovu said an X-ray revealed that Helena’s ribs were fractured, and she was bleeding from the abdomen. Helena was then transported to the Onandjokwe Intermediate Hospital for surgery, but died on 23 March 2014.
According to the post-mortem report, Helena had seven fractured ribs and a wounded liver.
“The liver had a deep wound that went into the parenchyma, meaning deep in the liver, which is a sign of shock in the kidneys. It also showed pulmonary respiratory distress and fracture of the right clavicle,” reads the report.
The report further indicates that the multiple injuries that Helena sustained caused her death. According to Petrus’ testimony, Helena was trying to fight him. He managed to drive away from Oshivelo, leaving her there, but had to drive back when he noticed that the car did not have enough fuel.
While he was making a U-turn back from the filling station, he saw Helena approaching the car from the front with a knife. He claims he tried to stop her by hooting, but to no avail.
Petrus said he put the vehicle in reverse gear, and Helena kept holding onto the bumper until she got onto the bonnet of the vehicle. He added that when he noticed her on the bonnet, he drove slowly, looking for someone to take her off, but no one came. Petrus further testified that he drove to the tarred road, hoping Helena would get off the vehicle. When she did not get off, he made a U-turn towards the police station. In the process of turning, Helena jumped off from the bonnet, and he accidentally bumped her with the car. Petrus denied causing Helena’s death, and attributed her injuries to the transportation from the scene to the hospital.
Judge Salionga said it is clear from the evidence that Petrus was annoyed by the unusual behaviour of his wife, who decided to climb onto the bonnet of a moving vehicle. He then acted out of rage, irritation and frustration, observed the judge. However, she said Petrus was reckless in his behaviour, and he should have known that driving a vehicle with someone on top was dangerous. “Surely, the accused ought to have foreseen the possibility not only that the deceased might fall off from the vehicle, but also of bumping her in the process or that the deceased might be hit in any way, resulting in her sustaining serious injuries on her body,” said Salionga.