A very relieved Gustav Pienaar punched his fists into the air after Windhoek High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg on Friday acquitted him on charges of murder and assault by threat and defeating or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.
According to the judge, the evidence of the two State witnesses, Dina Smith and Joy Pienaar fell significantly short of satisfying the requirements thus making it unreliable.
Pienaar was charged with one count of murder read with the provisions of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act for allegedly stabbing Magde Christina Cloete to death, one count of assault by threat for threatening to kill Hilaria Amukoto and one count of defeating or obstructing or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice for hiding or destroying the knife used to kill the victim.
It is alleged by the State Pienaar killed his girlfriend and mother of his then two-year-old son by stabbing her once in the chest with a knife with a 22cm blade on 8 May 2018. He denied guilt and put the blame for the murder on one of the State witnesses, Smith.
He claimed Smith and the victim attacked him. In the process, he claimed, Smith got hold of a knife he had in his hands and stabbed the deceased, albeit accidentally. He told the court that he only had the knife in his hand because he wanted to sell it.
According to Judge Liebenberg, the evidence generally shows that the deceased and accused had a tumultuous relationship which, it seems, was exacerbated by the victim’s drinking habits and countered by the accused’s aggression and physicality towards her.
“Though it says something about the accused’s behaviour and the person he is, it does not per se constitute evidence supporting the allegations set out in the murder charge,” the judge said and added that the onus is on the State to prove the offence to have been committed by the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
He further said that the accused’s version of what transpired immediately before and during the stabbing incident is suspect in some respect, but the questions remain.
“I am alive to the fact that no onus rests on the accused to convince the court of the truth of any of the explanations he had given, even if that explanation is improbable. What is required is for the court to be convinced that it is not only improbable, but false beyond a reasonable doubt,” the judge reasoned and continued that he is not satisfied the State crossed the threshold of proving this.
Pienaar must thus be given the benefit of doubt and be acquitted, the judge found.
With regard to the count of assault to do grievous bodily harm, he said no credible evidence was presented that proved Pienaar’s guilt and that he is found not guilty.
As prosecutor Marthino Olivier conceded that he failed to prove the charge of defeating the course of justice, the judge said while he is not bound by that concession, the poor quality of the evidence presented leaves him with no other chance but to acquit Pienaar on that charge as well.
Pienaar conducted his own defence after several lawyers withdrew from his case because of unrealistic instructions.