THE trial of two American citizens charged with murdering a young man in Windhoek near the start of 2011 is set to continue in the Windhoek High Court early next year, after being postponed for four months on Friday.
When the trial continues from 31 January next year, judge Christie Liebenberg is due to continue hearing testimony in a trial within a trial about a search carried out at a guest house where Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend were staying at the time of their arrest on 7 January 2011.
The two men’s defence lawyers, Lilian Mbaeva and Mbanga Siyomunji, last week objected to evidence about items found during the search being conveyed to the court, saying the search was unlawful because it was carried out without a search warrant. The two lawyers are also saying that police officers did not get the two Americans’ consent for a search to be done in their room at a guest house in Windhoek.
Thomas (36) and Townsend (35) are being prosecuted over the killing of 25-year-old Andre Heckmair, who was shot in the head in a vehicle in Klein Windhoek on 7 January 2011.
The state is alleging that Thomas and Townsend travelled from the United States to Namibia near the end of December 2010 to carry out a plan to murder Heckmair, who was a student at a hospitality school in Switzerland at the time of his death.
Heckmair had spent part of 2010 in New York, where he worked in a hotel on an internship, the court has heard.
At the time of his death, he was in a romantic relationship with a Swiss woman who had previously been involved with Thomas.
The two accused both denied guilt on six charges – including counts of murder, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and the importation of firearm parts into Namibia without a permit – when their trial began in November 2014.
During the trial within a trial on the search which police officers carried out at the guest house where the two men were staying before their arrest, one of the police officers involved in their arrest, inspector Joseph Ndokosho, told the court last week that Thomas and Townsend gave permission for their room to be searched.
He also told the court that during the search, cannabis was found in the room, and that Thomas and Townsend were then arrested in connection with the dagga.
Ndokosho and a colleague, chief inspector Frans Kantema, both testified it was after office hours on 7 January 2011, which was a Friday, when they received information that the two Americans, who had been linked to Heckmair through cellphone call records, were at the guest house.
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Kantema said when the door of the two men’s room, which had been locked, was opened after the police had announced their presence outside, Thomas started fighting with the police officers as they entered. Kantema said he regarded this reaction of Thomas as suspicious and he thought Thomas might be protecting something which was in the room.
He added that he did not see the need to ask the two men for permission to conduct a search, since Thomas had started to fight with the police officers immediately when they entered the room, showing he would not be cooperative. Thomas and Townsend have been held in custody since their arrest. Townsend unsuccessfully applied to be granted bail before another judge in the High Court last year. During the bail hearing, judge Orben Sibeya was informed that evidence which the police discovered in the two men’s room included two firearm barrels, a firearm silencer hidden in a table leg, a notebook and a laptop on which photographs of Heckmair and his family were found.
Deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef is prosecuting.