Nimt murder accused closes defence case

Former Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (Nimt) employee Ernst Lichtenstrasser, who is accused of murdering the two top executives of the institute in April 2019, closed his case in his own defence in his trial in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Lichtenstrasser’s defence lawyer, Albert Titus, announced the defence was closing its case after informing judge Christie Liebenberg that he had instructions from Lichtenstrasser not to call a ballistics expert from South Africa to testify in his defence.

The expert, Lucas Visser, examined some of the exhibits in the trial on Friday last week, Titus said. He added that he had a consultation with Visser and also with Lichtenstrasser on Sunday, and received instructions not to call Visser as a witness in Lichtenstrasser’s defence.

The evidence examined by Visser includes spent bullet casings found at the scene where Nimt executive director Eckhart Mueller and his deputy, Heimo Hellwig, were gunned down at the institute’s head office at Arandis on 15 April 2019, and a pistol that was found buried in the desert near Arandis about a month after the killing of Mueller and Hellwig.

The court was not informed what the results of Visser’s examination were.

The state is alleging that Lichtenstrasser (62) murdered Mueller and Hellwig by shooting them repeatedly with a 9mm pistol. It is also alleged that Lichtenstrasser had been involved in a workplace dispute with the Nimt leadership, which decided to transfer him from the institute’s campus at Tsumeb to the Nimt campus at Keetmanshoop, before the two men were killed.

Lichtenstrasser is being prosecuted on eight criminal charges, including two counts of murder, charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence and a count of defeating or obstructing the course of justice. He is denying guilt on all of the charges.

A Namibian Police Forensic Science Institute ballistics expert has testified during Lichtenstrasser’s trial that eight spent cartridge casings and a bullet point found at the scene where Mueller and Hellwig had been shot were linked to a 9mm Beretta pistol that police officers discovered buried in the desert about 15 kilometres from Arandis a month after the murders.

The witness also testified that the pistol could be linked to other spent cartridge casings, which, according to other witnesses in the trial, had been found at Lichtenstrasser’s house at Otavi and at a shooting range on a farm near Tsumeb that had been used by him.

According to other evidence before the court, DNA test results connected Lichtenstrasser to a gun holster and the firearm parts found near Arandis on 17 May 2019.

With the case in Lichtenstrasser’s defence closed, the trial has been postponed to 14 September for the hearing of closing oral arguments from Titus and deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef, who is representing the state.

Lichtenstrasser is being held in custody.

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