Americans ‘without remorse’ about murder, judge says

JAILED … Marcus Thomas (left) and Kevan Townsend have been sentenced to effective prison terms of 30 years and 29 years, respectively, at the end of their long-running trial. Photo: Werner Menges

The same persons with whom Andre Heckmair had a lunch appointment on 7 January 2011 became his murderers.

This was part of the remarks made by judge Christie Liebenberg in the Windhoek High Court yesterday, before he sentenced United States citizens Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend to effective prison terms of 30 years and 29 years, respectively.

The “brazen and merciless killing” of Heckmair (25), who was executed with a single gunshot to the head while seated in the driver’s seat of a car, in broad daylight in a residential area of Windhoek, came unexpectedly and shocked not only his family, but also broader society, Liebenberg said.

In addition to that, the motive for the murder remains unanswered, and is a riddle that will haunt Heckmair’s family forever, he also said.

Liebenberg noted that Heckmair’s mother, Birgit Heckmair, told the court two weeks ago that she, her husband and their daughter saw Andre Heckmair alive for the last time when he left for a lunch appointment on 7 January 2011.

Their next meeting was in a mortuary.

Heckmair was visiting his family in Namibia at the end of 2010 and start of 2011, and was killed a day before he was due to travel back to Switzerland, where he was studying at a hotel school, the court was informed.

Heckmair’s girlfriend had spent part of his last holiday in Namibia with him, and returned to Switzerland the day before he was murdered.

The court also heard during the trial that Heckmair’s girlfriend had previously been involved in a relationship with Thomas.

The fact that the motive for the killing of Heckmair remains a mystery “renders the ending of a young person’s life […] even more senseless”, Liebenberg remarked.

The court found that Thomas (38) and Townsend (37) acted with common purpose, planning and preparing to obtain the murder weapon and setting up a meeting with Heckmair, who was lured to a dead-end street in Klein Windhoek, where he was murdered, Liebenberg recounted.

Heckmair was also robbed, when his cellphone and wallet in which he had a 100 Swiss franc note were stolen from the car in which he was shot.

The police later found a 100 Swiss franc note among the possessions of Thomas and Townsend at the guest house in Windhoek where they were arrested on the evening of 7 January 2011.


Liebenberg remarked during the sentencing that neither of the two convicted men “expressed any remorse for the crimes they committed and the accompanying pain and suffering brought upon the family of [Heckmair]”. That reflects on the character of Thomas and Townsend, “who appear unfazed by the crimes they committed and the consequences to others”, the judge added.

“It would appear that the accused persons rather see themselves as unfortunate victims of circumstances that landed them in the present disaster,” Liebenberg observed.

He continued: “The court cannot simply turn a blind eye to the accused persons’ blatant and flagrant want of respect for the life and dignity of a fellow human being.

Hence the punishment meted out by this court today should reflect the court’s utter repugnance and contempt for the accused persons’ disrespect to these values.”

The two men’s trial, which started in November 2014, took nearly nine years to be concluded, after multiple attempts by Thomas to derail the trial resulted in lengthy delays, Liebenberg noted as well.

With the delays having consumed almost half of the time it took to finalise the trial, he decided to deduct between eight and nine years from the sentences the two men would have received otherwise, he said.

Both men were held in custody since their arrest.

Liebenberg sentenced Thomas and Townsend both to 27 years’ imprisonment on a charge of murder, and a four-year prison term on a count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, of which half would be served concurrently with the sentence on the murder charge.

Both men were also sentenced to pay a fine of N$1 000 or six months’ imprisonment for possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence.

Thomas was further sentenced to a prison term of one year on a charge of attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice, and a fine of N$4 000 or a one-year jail term for importing firearm parts without a permit, while Townsend was sentenced to pay a fine of N$1 000 or six months’ imprisonment for possession of firearm parts without a licence.

Liebenberg finally declared both men unfit to possess a firearm for a period of five years, starting on the date of their eventual release from prison.
Deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef represented the state during the trial.

Thomas and Townsend were represented by defence lawyers Salomon Kanyemba and Mbanga Siyomunji, respectively.

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