Grieving relatives confront ‘cowardly’ Nimt killer

Ernst Lichtenstrasser

The murder of the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology’s two top executives in April 2019 was a cowardly act.

With this statement, delivered from the witness stand in the Windhoek High Court, Dietlinde Jacobs, the daughter of the institute’s murdered executive director, yesterday rebuked the man convicted of killing her father and his deputy on 15 April 2019.

Looking directly at Ernst Lichtenstrasser where he sat in the dock, Jacobs said: “How can you shoot such outstanding people like dogs? It’s so cowardly. What happened? So cowardly!”

Jacobs added that her father, Eckhart Mueller, and his deputy at the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (Nimt), Heimo Hellwig, were both completely vulnerable when they were gunned down.

Her father “didn’t even have a chance to defend himself”, Jacobs said.

“He was murdered at a moment when he was so vulnerable.”

Mueller was the backbone of his family, and his family fell apart after his death, Jacobs said.

“It completely destroyed me. My father was, apart form my husband, my best friend,” she remarked.

“I will never get over his death. I will never get over the cruelty of his death. I will never forgive the person who did that,” Jacobs added.

She was testifying during a presentence hearing before judge Christie Liebenberg, who convicted Lichtenstrasser (62) on eight charges, including two counts of murder, two weeks ago.

Liebenberg found that evidence placed before him during Lichtenstrasser’s trial proved that Lichtenstrasser was the gunman who murdered Mueller (72) and Hellwig (60) by shooting them multiple times at the entrance of Nimt’s head office at Arandis on the morning of 15 April 2019.

Lichtenstrasser denied guilt during his trial – and repeated yesterday that he was not responsible for the murder of the two men.

Concluding questions that he put to Jacobs during her testimony, Lichtenstrasser said: “I had nothing to do with your father’s murder.”

Hellwig’s widow, Sabine Hellwig, also testified during the presentence hearing.

She told the court she and Hellwig had been married for five years before he was killed.

“It’s still not reality to me. I still struggle to come to terms with it,” she said when asked how Hellwig’s death affected her.

Hellwig’s two daughters from a previous marriage and his mother, who is 103 years old, are also still struggling to come to terms with his death, she said.

“I miss him. He’s my soulmate,” she said.

“It was a brutal murder,” she added.

When Lichtenstrasser got his turn to put questions to her, he started off by telling her that he could imagine what it feels like to lose a loved one like she did.

“You don’t, sir. You don’t,” she answered him.

The presentence hearing took place after Liebenberg ruled that an application filed by Lichtenstrasser last week – in which he was asking that proceedings in his trial should be halted at this stage – was defective and irregular.

Lichtenstrasser termed it a “special review application”, in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act’s section on the making of a special entry on proceedings that were irregular or not according to law during a trial.

In his ruling, Liebenberg said the correct procedure for Lichtenstrasser to follow would be to apply for leave to appeal against the court’s verdict, after he has been sentenced.

Testifying in mitigation of sentence yesterday, Lichtenstrasser said he has lived “a clean and honest life”.

He said during his employment at Nimt he was initially impressed by Mueller as head of the institute.

However, he later formed the opinion that Mueller was “masquerading” as Nimt’s leader, but in reality was using the institute as a cash cow, he said.

On the sentencing that awaits him, Lichtenstrasser remarked: “Given my age, my belief is that I will die a very undignified death in prison.”

He also told the court that, having been thinking about the deaths of Mueller and Hellwig and after looking at photographs of them after they had been shot, he thought they died in an undignified way.

“But it was quick and painless,” he added, eliciting a murmur of disagreement from people in the courtroom’s public gallery.

When Liebenberg asked him what he thought would be an appropriate sentence in a case involving two murders, committed with a direct intent to kill, Lichtenstrasser responded: “If I could choose, I would choose the death penalty.”

After the judge reminded him that the death penalty is not an option in Namibia, and asked him to suggest an appropriate sentence, Lichtenstrasser answered: “House arrest.”

The presentence hearing is scheduled to continue on Thursday next week.

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