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NIMT trial: ‘Incompetent’ officer grilled

2021-09-29  Roland Routh

NIMT trial: ‘Incompetent’ officer grilled
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The murder trial of Ernst Lichtenstrasser (60), accused of killing two senior managers at the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) in Arandis, has resumed, with defence lawyer Albert Titus grinding an officer responsible for handling exhibits at the Arandis Police Station. Warrant officer Engelhardt GaroСb testified about the revolver, spent cartridges, a holster, live bullets and a pair of boots handed in at the police station on 17 April 2019 as exhibits.

According to GaroСb, he was the only one who had the keys to the strongroom at the police station where exhibits were kept – and the evening these were brought, he was not there, and he presumed they were locked in the charge office safe. Titus, who is a legal aid lawyer, had a field day with GaroСb as he continued pressing him on the chain of custody of the exhibits.

According to him, while the exhibits were supposed to be signed in on the occurrence book by the person taken into custody and signed by the person who brought it, there was no mention of either in the book. The officer could merely admit that there was negligence on the part of the officers that handled the exhibits.

He further lambasted the officer for his own “incompetence” by not following procedures when handling the exhibits. Lichthenstrasser pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, two counts 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 at the start of his trial.

He did not provide a plea explanation, and Titus confirmed the pleas and told the court his client will make use of his constitutionally guaranteed right to remain silent and put the onus on the State to prove every allegation against him. The prosecution alleges Lichtenstrasser, a former lecturer at the Tsumeb campus of NIMT, shot and killed Eckhardt Mueller and Heinz Heimo Hellwig, who were the executive director and deputy director of NIMT, respectively, at Arandis in 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. Lichtenstrasser remains in police custody at the section for trial awaiting inmates at the Windhoek Correctional Facility.

The matter is presided over by Windhoek High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg and the State is represented by deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef.

2021-09-29  Roland Routh

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