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Murderous arsonist allowed to appeal convictions

2024-02-12  Roland Routh

Murderous arsonist allowed to appeal convictions

A man from northern Namibia who was convicted in August 2022 of killing the mother of his child by hitting her with a brick several times on the head, has been allowed by the High Court to appeal his convictions in the Supreme Court.

Paulinu Mateus Katale was convicted on charges of arson and murder, and sentenced to an effective 25 years imprisonment.

Oshakati High Court Acting Judge Danie Small said although he is satisfied with his ruling in the matter, the appeal judges might take a different view.

He convicted Katale of murdering Nauyele Domingas Miquel with whom he has a three-year-old child by hitting her several times on her head with a brick at Okakwa in the district of Outapi.

He was further convicted of arson for setting alight the hut of the deceased. All this happened on 5 February 2019. 

The judge sentenced Katale to five years for arson and 23 years for murder, but ordered that three years of the arson sentence run concurrently with the sentence on the murder conviction.

Not satisfied with the conviction, Katale filed a notice for leave to appeal within the 14 days stipulated, but his notice somehow did not make it to court. 

He again filed in January this year, and filed a condonation application which was opposed by the State. Acting Judge Small, however, dismissed the objection by the State, and granted him condonation. In his ruling, the judge stated that while he is convinced the convictions were correct, he is divorcing himself from that finding as there seems to be prospect that another court may come to a different conclusion. 

In essence, he said, a judge considering his judgement is in an invidious position as he is required to reconsider his own decision.  “That, however, is a duty imposed by the legislature upon judges in criminal
matters. But as difficult as it might be, I must free my mind of the fact that I found that the evidence presented proved the applicant’s guilt on the two charges beyond a reasonable doubt. My original decision should not cloud the enquiry whether there is a reasonable prospect that the judges of appeal will take a different view of the facts and the law,” Acting Judge Small stated. 

He continued that the police investigation left much to be desired. Not obtaining the MTC printouts of the witness who claimed Katale made admissions to her, and the phone of Katale, is just one of the shortcomings. Another, he said, was that the police officers who were following the tracks of the assailant called that off, once the applicant was arrested. 

Furthermore, he said, the DNA examination was not done on the applicant’s T-shirt to establish whether the dark spots were blood and, if blood, whether it was that of the applicant, the deceased, or both. The judge convicted Katale on the strength of identification by two witnesses and corroborating evidence that strengthened the evidence of the witnesses’ identification. 

According to the judge, he is satisfied that the applicant has shown that there exists reasonable prospects of success on appeal insofar as another court might find the applicant’s identification inadequate, or at least require more corroborating evidence before accepting the evidence of the witnesses identifying the applicant on the scene and as the one using the cellphone beyond a reasonable doubt.

Katale is represented by Legal Aid lawyer Ndahafa Nghifewa, and the State by Victoria Shigwedha. Katale is in custody at Oluno Prison.

2024-02-12  Roland Routh

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