Chilling testimony in bail application

10 July 2019 | Justice

Ernst Lichtenstrasser, who is charged with the murders of Namibia Institute of Mining Technology (NIMT) executive director Eckhart Mueller and his deputy Heimo Hellwig was not threatened or influenced by the police to confess to the killings.

This is according to investigating officer Inspector Reinhardt Maletzky, who said Lichtenstrasser was of a sound and clear mind when he confessed to the murders and that he had done so voluntarily.

Maletzky's testimony in the formal application brought by Lichtenstrasser in the Swakopmund Magistrate's Court was led by State advocate Antonia Verhoef.





The investigating officer presented strong evidence against Lichtenstrasser.

Maletzky, who served as a police officer in Okahandja for 32 years, said he and a 10-member team had investigated the NIMT murders. Lichtenstrasser, who is under heavy police guard, is charged with the execution-style shootings of Mueller and Hellwig in April in front of the NIMT training centre in Arandis.

“The accused confessed to the murders and was not influenced. We've helped him repeatedly to contact his lawyer,” Maletzky testified on Monday.

Lichtenstrasser claimed in his bail hearing evidence last month that he confessed to the killings carried out on 15 April because the police had threatened to arrest his wife.

“I wanted to protect my wife and therefore confessed to the murders,” the 58-year-old native Austrian maintained during his evidence.

Yesterday, Maletzky told the court that Lichtenstrasser posed a threat to all NIMT employees adding that investigations are also at a “sensitive stage”, as more people would be investigated. “There is a high probability that more arrests will follow,” Maletzky said.

“It is true that there are no eyewitnesses to the killings, but the evidence against the defendant is very strong,” Maletzky said.

He told the court that the murder weapon was found buried in the desert, “by chance” at the place where Lichtenstrasser had suggested to the police during his confession.

Moreover, ballistics on the casings found at the murder scene and others found at a shooting range near Outjo where Lichtenstrasser regularly practiced, as well as at his flat in Otavi, all match.

To further compound matters, Maletzky said Lichtenstrasser had threatened Mueller long before the murders. He had allegedly warned him to “sleep with his eyes open”.

Lichtenstrasser had testified after prosecutor Verhoef presented five reasons why he should remain in custody.

These included that Lichtenstrasser is a flight risk and that it was neither in the interest of justice nor the public that he be granted bail. “The allegations are very serious,” she said.

Lichtenstrasser's lawyer Trevor Brockerhoff led his evidence.

The suspect admitted he was part of a NIMT concerned group that questioned management and Mueller's leadership.

He said all the group members had “strife” with Mueller, and not only him.

Although he denied the allegations, Lichtenstrasser admitted he was in the vicinity of Arandis “somewhere in the desert” on 15 April.

He said he had a quarrel with his wife in Tsumeb the previous day and told her he was going to “Jason”, a former NIMT employee who currently resides in Swakopmund.

He rummaged through the safe and packed a .38 Special revolver and ammunition, and then proceeded south.

Due to pain in his shoulder he took strong painkillers along the way and “somewhere between Usakos and Arandis” he stopped and slept next to the road due to “fatigue and confusion”.

“I woke up confused on Monday (the day of the murders) and for safety reasons I drove a little further into the desert, where I fell asleep again,” he said.

On the Tuesday he decided to drive back to Tsumeb. During the trip he had heard about the killings on the radio and was arrested in Karibib.

The suspect said he came to Namibia before independence and disapproved of the then apartheid system, which is why he had become a freedom fighter and currently enjoys veteran status. He claimed he gathered information for Swapo during the liberation struggle.

Magistrate Conchita Olivier postponed the matter to 24 July for her ruling.

ERWIN LEUSCHNER

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