Court hears farmer was shot before burning of body

DENYING GUILT … Farmworkers Salathuel Unaeb (left) and Bernadus Afrikaner are denying guilt on 11 charges in connection with the deaths of a couple who was allegedly murdered at their Gobabis district farm nearly six years ago. Photo: Werner Menges

A Gobabis district farmer whose burnt remains were found in his and his wife’s house after it had been destroyed by fire was killed with a gunshot to the head, a medical doctor testified in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Although the remains of Armin Riedel (68) were burnt beyond recognition, fragmented skull fractures and injuries to Riedel’s brain made medical doctor Simasiku Kabanje conclude that Riedel had been killed by a gunshot injury to his head, Kabanje testified on the first day of the trial of two men accused of murdering the farmer and his wife, Brunhild Riedel (66), on 20 January 2018.

Kabanje, who carried out a post-mortem examination on Armin Riedel’s remains, also said he did not find soot in his trachea – which is an indication that he was dead by the time his body was burnt.

Kabanje was the first state witness to testify in the trial of two farmworkers, Bernadus Afrikaner (35) and Salathuel Unaeb (47), which began before judge Naomi Shivute yesterday.

Afrikaner and Unaeb denied guilt on 11 charges at the start of the trial.

The charges consist of two counts of murder, two charges of rape, and counts of arson, alternatively malicious damage to property, robbery with aggravating circumstances, defeating or obstructing the course of justice, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, unlawful supply of a firearm and assault by threat.

The state is alleging that Afrikaner and Unaeb, who were employed by the Riedels, killed Brunhild Riedel in an unknown manner in the couple’s house at the farm Grunfeld in the Gobabis district.

The state is also alleging that the two men raped her.

Afrikaner and Unaeb are further accused of robbing the couple by stealing items including a 7,65mm pistol, a cutlery set, knives and bedding from them, and of destroying their house by setting fire to it with the couple’s bodies inside the building, in an attempt to destroy evidence of the killing of the couple.

On the same day as the fatal incident at the farm, the two men allegedly threatened to assault a fellow farmworker, who had seen part of their attack on the couple.

The state is also alleging that Afrikaner and Unaeb sold the 7,65mm pistol they had stolen from the couple to someone at Gobabis on 17 February 2018.

Defence lawyer Melissa Windisch, who is representing both accused, told Shivute they would not be giving any plea explanation to the court at this stage, and that the state should prove each of its allegations against them.

Afrikaner and Unaeb were both arrested in August 2018.

They are being held in custody.

The trial is continuing.

State advocate Ethel Ndlovu is representing the prosecution.

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