WINDHOEK - Legal old-hand Johan van Vuuren was yesterday appointed as the new State funded legal representative for Rachel Rittmann, 47, the Gobabis woman accused of plotting along with her boyfriend to kill her husband in August 2013.
This was announced yesterday in the Windhoek High Court before Judge Christi Liebenberg.
It came after Hipura Ujaha was removed from the case by the Department of Legal Aid and his successor Appolus Shimakeleni withdrew because of conflicting instructions. Shimakeleni told Judge Liebenberg on Monday that he received “untenable” instructions from Rittmann and as such he cannot with a clear conscious continue to represent her.
Van Vuuren still has to consult with Rittmann and the judge postponed the matter to October 24, for Van Vuuren to inform the court whether he will be on record as Rittmann’s legal representative.
Judge Liebenberg also set down the dates of December 3 to December 7, this year for the trial to start as well as further dates in February, March and April next year.
The case got stalled after Boris Isaacks, the Legal Aid lawyer for Rittmann’s co-accused, 35-year-old Rhyno Richardo du Preez, withdrew a guilty plea he wished to enter on behalf of Du Preez. At the time, Isaacks told the court the State was not willing to accept his plea as it stands. According to him, he received instructions to withdraw the guilty plea and ask that the proposed plea not be used as evidence against his client. Isaacks informed the court that Du Preez wished to plead guilty to three of the four charges he and Rittmann face.
They face one count of murder read with the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances and one count of defeating or obstructing or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.
Du Preez wanted to plead guilty on the murder, conspiracy and obstructing the course of justice charges only and not guilty to the robbery charge.
In a lengthy plea explanation submitted to the court, he basically put the blame for the murder plot squarely on the shoulders of Rachel.
According to the State, Du Preez and Rittmann conspired to kill the 35-year-old Rudolph Henry Rittmann. It is alleged they stabbed the late Rittmann to death at his home in Gobabis and then drove the body in his vehicle to a secluded spot in the veld where they set the car on fire with the body inside.
According to police records and the indictment, the Rittmann couple had marital problems, which would often lead to temporary separation stints during 2012 and 2013.
It is suspected the two accused in the matter plotted the man’s murder and worked together to that effect.
It is alleged on August 23, 2013, Rachel allegedly fed her husband unidentified tablets in a drink, which caused him to become drowsy and lose concentration. She allegedly then called in Du Preez, who was waiting nearby, to kill Rudolf.
Police suspect that Rudolf was stabbed several times all over his body with a sharp object, presumably a knife, as he lay in a state of confusion on his bed.
The two accused then allegedly loaded his body into his car and drove it up to the Kapps Farm area on the eastern outskirts of Windhoek, a few kilometres east of the police checkpoint, where the car was found burned.
They allegedly did this to create the impression of an accident.
Rudolf’s burnt remains were found in his car a few kilometres outside the Hosea Kutako International Airport, along the Windhoek-Gobabis road a few days after the incident.
Rachel is being held at Klein Windhoek Police Station, while Du Preez is being held at Windhoek Correctional Facility’s holding cells.
State Advocate Marthino Olivier assisted by Advocate Ethel Ndlovu is representing the Prosecutor General.