Prison link between US murder accused

A police officer who investigated the killing of Heckmair revealed this when he continued to testify in the two Americans’ trial in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

While being cross-questioned by defence lawyer Salomon Kanyemba, who is representing American citizen Marcus Thomas, chief inspector Felix Ndikoma told judge Christie Liebenberg that during his investigation of Heckmair’s death he established that Thomas had been arrested on 10 August 2010 for allegedly having broken into Heckmair’s flat in New York.

Heckmair, who was studying at a hotel school in Switzerland at the time of his death, was living and working in New York City during 2010, the court has heard.

Heckmair (25) was killed when he was shot in the head in a car in Klein Windhoek on 7 January 2011.

The state is alleging that Thomas (37) and fellow American Kevan Townsend (36) had travelled from the US to Namibia in late December 2010 to carry out a plan to murder Heckmair.

Thomas and Townsend are denying guilt on six charges, including counts of murder and possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence.

Ndikoma said according to information that he received from the US, Townsend was in custody in a jail in New York in August 2010. Thomas landed in custody in the same jail after his arrest over a break-in at Heckmair’s flat, and it was at that prison that he and Townsend met, Ndikoma said.

After his release on bail, Thomas visited Townsend at the jail in November and again early in December 2010, Ndikoma said he established.

Following that, Thomas signed an agreement with Townsend’s mother in which he agreed to provide US$10 000 for bail to have Townsend released from custody, Ndikoma added.

Kanyemba told Ndikoma that Thomas agreed to pay bail for Townsend because they are related to each other, being cousins – the first time that the court has been informed of this. Ndikoma insisted that in his investigation he did not find any indication that the two men are related to each other.

Ndikoma also testified that during his investigation he travelled to Switzerland, where he had a meeting with the woman who was Heckmair’s girlfriend at the time of his death.

Before that, he established that she and Thomas were pictured together on a wallpaper theme photo on Thomas’ laptop computer, which was found in the guest house room in Windhoek where he and Townsend were staying before their arrest.

Ndikoma said he established that the woman, Christine Brühwiler, had been involved in a relationship with Thomas before she and Heckmair became romantically involved.

Kanyemba told Ndikoma that, according to his instructions from his client, Thomas and Heckmair knew each other and had an appointment to meet for lunch on the day that Heckmair was killed. Thomas’ version is further that Heckmair never arrived at the restaurant where they had agreed to meet.

Ndikoma’s response to this was that a cellphone number that was used by Thomas was the last number that had been in contact with Heckmair’s cellphone before he was killed. Although eight cellphones were found in the Americans’ room at the time of their arrest, the police have not found the cellphone that had been used to contact Heckmair, Ndikoma recounted.

He said Heckmair did not know the people with whom he had an appointment to meet, as he had been told that the people who wanted to meet him for lunch were friends of one of his friends in the US and he was under the impression that they were women.

Ndikoma also remarked that if Thomas and Heckmair knew each other, he had to wonder what type of relationship they had if Thomas broke into Heckmair’s flat.

The trial is continuing.

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