A State witness, who worked at the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology in Arandis, testified yesterday that accused Ernst Lichtenstrasser told then executive director Eckhardt Mueller to “sleep with one eye open”.
Mueller and his deputy Heinz Heimo Hellwig were gunned down at the entrance of the NIMT offices at the Erongo mining town on 15 April 2019.
Ralph Bussel, who is now the executive director, testified that Mueller visited the Tsumeb campus of NIMT towards the end of January 2019. Upon his return, the deceased informed him and other members of his management team that Lichtenstrasser told him to “sleep with one eye open”.
According to Bussel, the deceased went to speak to Lichtenstrasser about his options at the institution, being that he could accept a transfer to the Keetmanshoop campus, resign or be terminated.
This was necessitated by Lichtenstrasser’s reluctance to accept the transfer after the fitting and turning workshop at the Tsumeb campus was closed down for lack of job placements.
He further testified that Mueller took the threat so seriously that he changed his behaviour. While he was openly transparent about his comings and goings before the threat by putting it in a memo for all to see, he became secretive about his whereabouts, only trusting senior management with this information, Bussel related.
He said on the day of the murders, he informed Erongo police crime investigations coordinator Erastus Iikuyu of the threats made by Lichtenstrasser against Mueller.
On a question by legal aid lawyer Albert Titus on behalf of Lichtenstrasser whether there was a report made to the police about the purported threats, he said he did not know, nor did he advise Mueller to report the threat.
Titus further told Bussel that his client denies ever having made the threat, and put it to the witness that if indeed such a threat was made, why were there no consequences?
The lawyer said it is his instructions that an unsigned letter was circulated at all four campuses of NIMT, in which the author ‘advised’ Mueller to sleep with one eye open.
According to Titus, it was not only Lichtenstrasser who had grievances against Mueller, but that there was a concerned group numbering more than 50 staff members who had issues with Mueller.
Lichtenstrasser 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 that his client will make use of his constitutionally guaranteed right to remain silent and put the onus on the State to prove each and every allegation against him.
The prosecution alleges that Lichtenstrasser, a former lecturer at the Tsumeb campus of NIMT, shot and killed Mueller and Hellwig.
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 he was thus unhappy about a decision to transfer him to the Keetmanshoop campus.
However, it is stated, the two deceased were steadfast in their decision about the transfer, despite the accused’s 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 while the State is represented by deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef.