Verdict next stage in Americans’ trial

Marcus Thomas

Two American citizens accused of murdering a young man in Windhoek near the start of 2011 are due to hear the verdict in their long-running trial in the Windhoek High Court in September.

Judge Christie Liebenberg postponed the delivery of his judgement in the trial of Marcus Thomas (38) and Kevan Townsend (37) to 6 September, after hearing closing oral arguments in the matter from deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef and defence lawyers Salomon Kanyemba and Mbanga Siyomunji on Friday. The state is alleging that Thomas and Townsend murdered the 25-year-old Andre Heckmair by shooting him in the head in a car in the Klein Windhoek area of Windhoek on 7 January 2011.

The state is also accusing Thomas and Townsend of having travelled from the United States to Namibia near the end of December 2010 to carry out a plan to kill Heckmair, who was studying at a hospitality school in Switzerland before his death and had spent part of 2010 working in New York City in the United States.

Heckmair’s girlfriend at the time of his death had previously been involved in a romantic relationship with Thomas, the court has been told.

The two Americans’ trial started in November 2014, when they denied guilt on seven charges, including counts of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, importation of two firearm barrels into Namibia or possession of the barrels without a licence, and possession of a 7,65mm pistol and ammunition without a licence. They did not testify in their own defence after the state concluded its case against them in May this year.

Kevan Townsend

Kanyemba and Siyomunji both argued on Friday that the state “failed dismally” to prove that Thomas and Townsend had been involved in the killing of Heckmair.

They both noted there was no direct evidence linking the two accused men to the scene where Heckmair was shot, and that no belongings of Heckmair were found in their possession after he had been killed.

Kanyemba argued that the case “has been all about suspicions […] not conclusive, reliable evidence”.

He also argued that the state was relying on the testimony of “self-confessed criminals” who told the court about a transaction in which Thomas and Townsend bought a 7,65mm pistol and ammunition in Windhoek near the start of January 2011.

Siyomunji argued that two firearm barrels and a gun silencer that the police said were found in the Americans’ guest house room two days after their arrest on 7 January 2011 were planted in the room by police officers who were determined to incriminate the two men. Verhoef argued that the firearm barrels and silencer, which according to a firearms expert were new and had not been used before, formed part of circumstantial evidence of a plan to kill Heckmair and common purpose between Thomas and Townsend.

She noted that the testimony heard during the trial was flooded with evidence that Thomas and Townsend moved around Windhoek together, looking for a firearm to buy, after they arrived in Namibia on 27 December 2010.

Verhoef also argued that Thomas and Townsend tried to get information about Heckmair as soon as they had arrived in Namibia.

State witnesses in the gun transaction with Thomas and Townsend said they were initially looking for a 9mm pistol to buy – which is the same calibre of the firearms barrels and silencer that the police said they found in their guest house room – but ended up buying a 7,65mm pistol and ammunition.

Heckmair was shot with a 7,65mm bullet, it was discovered during a post-mortem examination.

Verhoef also noted that according to one of the witnesses involved in the sale of the firearm to the two Americans, Thomas said to him on the afternoon of 7 January 2011 – after the time that Heckmair was killed – that one did not want to be found with a gun that had been used and that he had “tossed it away”.

She argued that the two accused should be convicted on all charges.

Thomas and Townsend have been held in custody since their arrest.

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