Murder by car gets man 15 years in prison

An Oshikoto region resident convicted of murdering his wife by hitting her with his car has received an effective prison term of 15 years at the end of his trial in the Oshakati High Court.

Although Pineas Heita (45) did not plan to murder his wife, Helena Heita (26), but on the spur of the moment commit the offence that claimed her life, he knew it was dangerous and wrong to drive his pickup while she was lying on the bonnet of the vehicle, judge Johanna Salionga remarked during Heita’s sentencing on Friday.

Salionga also said it appeared that Heita and his wife had a violent relationship, with him telling the court she had been violent towards him and that he was trying to get away from her before she climbed onto the bonnet of his pickup, while a cousin of Helena told the court that Heita had badly beaten his wife on an occasion shortly before her death.

Heita was convicted of murdering his wife, who was fatally injured when he struck her with his pickup on a road at Oshivelo on 21 March 2014.

Before she was hit by the vehicle, Heita’s wife had been on the bonnet of the pickup, holding on to its windscreen wipers, as Heita drove away from Oshivelo in the direction of Tsumeb.

During his trial, he told the court she had been armed with a knife when she climbed onto the bonnet.

He also said she fell off the bonnet and was hit by the vehicle when he made a U-turn to return in the direction of Oshivelo, after she did not jump off the car as he had hoped she would do.

Several of Helena’s ribs were fractured and her liver was seriously injured when she was hit by the car, the court heard during the trial.

She died two days after the incident in a hospital where she was being treated.

Heita denied guilt when he went on trial before Salionga in November 2018.

He was found guilty of murder, committed without a direct intention to kill, and a charge of driving a motor vehicle without a driver’s licence, in October last year.

In her judgement on the merits of the charges against Heita, Salionga rejected his claims that he had acted in self-defence when his wife was fatally injured or that intervening factors after the initial incident in which she was injured, in the form of deficient medical treatment, caused her death.

Salionga found that Heita’s conduct during the incident was “grossly reckless”.

The judge also found that Heita knew it was dangerous to drive his pickup while his wife was on the vehicle’s bonnet, and ought to have foreseen the possibility not only that she might fall off the vehicle but also that it could hit her and seriously injure her.

Salionga commented it was “crystal clear” that when Heita drove his pickup with his wife on its bonnet he was reckless and foresaw the possibility of her falling off or smashing her head on the tar road.

Heita has been held in custody since he was found guilty four months ago.

During the sentencing, Salionga recounted that she was informed Helena Heita had two children. Pineas Heita was the father of one of her children.

The court was also told that Heita was working as a supervisor at an agricultural supplies shop and was employed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services in an HIV testing programme before he was convicted.

Salionga sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment, of which five years are suspended for a period of five years on condition he is not convicted of murder committed during the period of suspension, on the murder charge.

He was also sentenced to pay a fine of N$1 000 or serve a jail term of three months on the charge of driving without a driver’s licence.

State advocates Taodago Gaweseb and Martha Hasheela represented the prosecution.

Defence lawyer Silas-Kishi Shakumu represented Heita.

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