Appeal window opens for jailed ex-detectiveBy: WERNER MENGES
A FORMER Police detective who is serving a 25-year prison term for murder and armed robbery heard yesterday that he will be allowed to challenge his conviction on appeal in the Supreme Court.
The former Sergeant Silas Shilongo was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in a ruling given by Acting Judge Theo Frank in the High Court in Windhoek. Acting Judge Gerson Hinda agreed with the ruling. An appeal by Shilongo against his conviction was dismissed by the two acting judges in the High Court at Oshakati on September 8 this year.
In yesterday’s ruling Acting Judge Frank however remarked that in his opinion there is a possibility that another court could come to a different conclusion when assessing the evidence on which Shilongo was convicted.
Another court could also come to a different conclusion on the question whether the magistrate who presided at Shilongo’s trial should have recused himself from the trial when former Police officer Nelius Becker turned out to be one of the prosecution’s witnesses in the matter, Acting Judge Frank added.
Shilongo was sentenced by the then Magistrate Paulus Noa – who is now the Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission – in the Oshakati Regional Court at the end of July 2008. At that stage, Noa was finalising Shilongo’s trial after he had already taken up his post as the head of the ACC.
By the time that Becker testified in Shilongo’s trial, he had also taken up a post as the chief of investigations at the ACC.
Shilongo was prosecuted in connection with a deadly cash-in-transit robbery which took place on the road between Opuwo and Oshakati on August 31 2000. In the incident, a security company vehicle transporting cash from Opuwo to Oshakati came under attack. The driver of the vehicle, Mathys Marthinus Steyn, was killed when two robbers fired shots at the security company bakkie.
The robbers got away with just over N$147 000.
Shilongo was heading the Namibian Police’s Criminal Investigation Department at Opuwo at the time of the fatal robbery. He was initially charged with a co-accused, Ferdinand Kutamundu, who however absconded before the trial was finalised.
Shilongo’s conviction was based on a web of circumstantial evidence.
This included testimony that a vehicle looking like Shilongo’s bakkie had been seen close to the scene of the robbery on the afternoon the crimes were committed, that a colleague of Steyn had pointed Kutamundu out at an identification parade as one of the two robbers who had attacked their vehicle, and that Kutamundu was also pointed out at an identification parade by two other witnesses, who said they had seen him near the robbery scene with another person in a bakkie that looked like Shilongo’s.
Shilongo was also connected to two pistols which were found abandoned in the veld together with an AK47 rifle, with which Steyn had been shot.
There was also evidence that an etching of Shilongo’s surname appeared to have been ground off a pair of handcuffs used to restrain the two passengers who were travelling in the security company vehicle. In September’s appeal judgement Acting Judge Frank commented about the evidence: “To suggest that this is a mere coincidence that he be linked with handcuffs and pistols and that another person or persons could account for these items all being found in connection with the crime, is in my view mere conjecture and fanciful speculation.”
Shilongo was sentenced to an effective 30 years’ imprisonment. While his appeal against his conviction was dismissed in the High Court, his sentence was reduced to 25 years’ imprisonment.
Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje represented Shilongo in his appeal.