Judge wants medical report on fasting Nimt killer

Ernst Lichtenstrasser

A report on the medical condition of convicted double killer Ernst Lichtenstrasser, who says he has been on a hunger strike since the start of March, must be provided to the High Court today, the judge presiding over Lichtenstrasser’s trial has ordered.

Judge Christie Liebenberg directed that the medical officer of Windhoek Correctional Facility should provide a report on Lichtenstrasser’s state of health after Lichtenstrasser informed him during proceedings in the Windhoek High Court yesterday that he has been on a hunger strike for 12 days.

Lichtenstrasser (62), speaking slowly as he addressed the judge, also said he has not been taking his prescribed medication while refusing food.

“I’m fatigued,” he remarked.

He further informed the judge that he applied to the Directorate of Legal Aid to be provided with legal representation in January, but his application has been turned down.

Lichtenstrasser dismissed legal aid counsel Albert Titus, who defended him during his trial, in November last year, after Liebenberg found him guilty on two counts of murder and six other charges.

He also told Liebenberg that he wants a different judge to hear an application in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act to have a special entry made in the trial record.

The act says such a special entry, recording that proceedings in a trial were irregular or not according to law, can be made by a court and that if such an entry has been made, a convicted person can appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction.

After an adjournment, Liebenberg told Lichtenstrasser that he decided it would not be in the interests of justice to deal with the intended application to have a special entry made at this stage and that it will be dealt with only after Lichtenstrasser has been sentenced.

The court heard testimony from state witnesses in aggravation of sentence and from Lichtenstrasser in mitigation in November, after Titus’ services as defence lawyer in the trial had been terminated.

A week after that hearing, Lichtenstrasser attempted to end his life by taking an overdose of medication in the Windhoek Correctional Facility, where he is being held in custody.

During the adjournment in court proceedings yesterday, he told The Namibian he started a hunger strike after the prison authorities put him on suicide watch and placed him in a communal cell.

He said being in a communal cell worsens his anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression and affected his ability to prepare for the remainder of his trial.

Five of the charges on which Lichtenstrasser has been convicted are linked to the murder of Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (Nimt) executive director Eckhart Mueller (72) and his deputy, Heimo Hellwig (60), who were gunned down at the institute’s head office at Arandis on 15 April 2019.

Lichtenstrasser was also convicted on three charges connected to the theft of a shotgun from a gunsmith at Grootfontein during the second half of 2016 and the supply of that firearm to an employee of his in northern Namibia.

During his trial, which started in February 2021, Lichtenstrasser denied guilt on all eight counts. He repeated that he was not responsible for the murder of the two men during a presentence hearing two weeks after he had been convicted.

The court heard during his trial that Lichtenstrasser, who was employed at the Tsumeb campus of Nimt, had been involved in a dispute with the Nimt management about the way the institute was being run and about a decision to transfer him from Tsumeb, which was close to his home at Otavi, to Keetmanshoop, before Mueller and Hellwig were murdered.

Liebenberg found him guilty of the double murder based on ballistics and DNA evidence that linked him to a pistol which was found to have been the murder weapon. Lichtenstrasser also made a disputed confession to police officers a month after the double murder.

He has been held in custody since his arrest at Karibib, a day after the deadly shooting at Arandis.

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