DNA sample under spotlight in NIMT trial

07 April 2021 | Justice

ELLANIE SMIT



WINDHOEK

A DNA sample taken from Ernst Lichtenstrasser during the investigation into the murder of two top Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) executives has come under the spotlight.

A former lecturer at the NIMT Tsumeb campus, Lichtenstrasser has been accused of murdering Eckhart Mueller (72) and Heimo Hellwig (60), the executive director and deputy director of NIMT respectively, in Arandis on 15 April 2019.

He appeared before Judge Christie Liebenberg yesterday in the Windhoek High Court as the double murder trial continued.

It came to light yesterday that several inaccuracies occurred on the form that had to be completed while taking Lichtenstrasser’s DNA sample.

Dr Beata Haulofu, who was working at the Walvis Bay State Hospital at the time, testified as a State witness.

According to her, she was on duty at the hospital on 21 May 2019 when Detective Warrant Officer Heinrich Geiseb arrived and asked her to take an oral DNA sample of a murder suspect for a case under investigation.

She said he came to the hospital with the suspect in handcuffs. Haulofu said Geiseb gave her the suspect’s name and an identity document, which apparently belonged to the suspect.

Tongue-tied

“The name is a bit difficult to pronounce. Lichtenstrassen,” she recalled. While she would not be able to identify the man again, she said she only knows that he was not black.

According to her, Geiseb also presented her with a DNA reference sampling kit.

“This is the first time that I had worked with this specific DNA kit. I have only previously collected DNA for rape cases.”

She added that she left a section on the form blank because she didn’t understand it.

“There was no contamination of the sample when it was taken, because I took the correct steps,” she assured the court.

Defence lawyer Albert Titus questioned her about the fact that she had only previously taken buccal DNA samples for rape cases and never used the DNA reference sampling kit before.

He also wanted to know who completed the information under the donor section of the form, to which Haulofu said that she filled in the suspect’s initials, surname and ID number from the ID she was given.

She, however, admitted that she did not verify that the ID belonged to the suspect brought to the hospital.

Administrative issues

Titus further pointed out that the suspect’s surname was misspelled on the form Haulofu completed.

Meanwhile, regarding the section of the form Haulofu left blank, Titus questioned why she signed her signature there.

He said that if she signed the section, she confirmed that she understood what it was for.

After reading it out load, he said the section was in actuality not for her to have been completed, but for Lichtenstrasser.

“Where you signed is where the donor [suspect] should have signed. This was information to him to make sure he understood what the form was for. The donor never signed this form.”

Titus pointed out that although Lichtenstrasser’s thumbprint was taken, he was not given information about acknowledging and signing for the process. Deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef is representing the State. The trial is set to continue tomorrow.

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