Murder accused fights for bail

07 June 2019 | Justice

A Namibian soldier accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend has appealed to the High Court against a magistrate's decision to deny him bail last year.

Johannes Neuaka (40) allegedly shot Zya Juliet Shane Rittmann (25) in Damara location, Katutura, on 21 January 2018. Rittmann was hit in the head and died instantly.

After handing himself over to the police, Neuka was charged with murder, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and negligent discharge of a firearm.

Relatives told the police that Rittmann and Neuaka's five-year relationship had ended shortly before the murder.

During the bail hearing in the Katutura Magistrate's Court last year, Rittmann's mother testified that the relationship had been abusive.

She testified that her daughter had come home “countless times” with a bruised and swollen face. The mother also testified that Neuaka had once attacked Rittmann with a pair of scissors.



Appeal grounds

In papers filed with the Windhoek High Court this week, Neuaka's legal team presented 11 grounds of appeal, claiming that Magistrate Agatha Brigitte Okamaru had erred when she denied him bail.

One of these grounds is that she failed to take into account that although Neuaka was no longer being paid, we was never fired by the Namibian Defence Force and that he had to provide for his 11 children.

The magistrate found that Neuaka had exaggerated when he claimed to be supporting 11 children.

Neuaka's lawyer argues that the number of children was never challenged in court by the State prosecutor.

In its responding heads of argument, the State pointed out that Neuaka was able to produce only eight birth certificates of children he claimed were his.

The State further argued that the issue of his children was not the sole grounds for bail being denied.



Errors

Magistrate Okamaru denied Neuaka's bail application in October last year, saying it would not be in the interest of the public or the administration of justice to release him pending his trial. She further emphasised that Neuaka's version of events had been contradictory and not believable.

Another ground for Neuaka's appeal is that the magistrate did not consider that his version of events, that the shooting was accidental, had not been challenged.

The State countered that a witness had testified that Neuaka had pointed a firearm at the deceased and shot her.

Neuaka's lawyers argue that the magistrate erred when she believed the testimony of the investigating officer.

According to Neuaka's court papers, the investigating officer testified that Neuaka had arrived at Rittmann's house in a black Audi. He got out of the car, “carrying his child and a bag, put the child down and asked him to go call his mother, saying daddy is calling you and that the deceased went to talk to [Neuaka].”

This version was never put to Neuaka, the lawyers argue, and thus constituted hearsay.

The legal team also argues that the magistrate's decision that Neuaka did not qualify as a “good candidate for bail” was not supported by sufficient evidence.

The State argues that the magistrate cannot be faulted for her conclusions and that the appeal does not contain sufficient evidence to warrant an overturning of her decision.

Neuaka is represented by lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji, while state advocate Erick Moyo is appearing on behalf of the State. High Court Judge Petrus Unengu postponed the appeal hearing to 10 July.

JANA-MARI SMITH