Witness tells court of Americans’ gun search

TWO American citizens charged with murdering a young man in Windhoek at the start of 2011 illegally bought a firearm in the city only four days before the killing over which they are being prosecuted, a witness testified yesterday, when their trial resumed after being stalled for more than four years.

The state’s second witness in the trial of Americans Marcus Thomas (33) and Kevan Townsend (33), Simon Muliokela, gave this evidence on his return to the witness stand before judge Christie Liebenberg, four years and three months to the day after the start of his testimony was interrupted by a defence lawyer’s concern that Thomas was not mentally fit to be tried.

Thomas and Townsend are charged with having murdered the 25-year-old Andre Peter Heckmair on 7 January 2011 by shooting him in the head where he sat in a car in a quiet street in Klein Windhoek. The state is alleging that the two Americans travelled from the USA to Namibia in late December 2010 to carry out a plan to murder Heckmair, who had previously lived in the US.

Thomas and Townsend have denied guilt on charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, importation of firearm parts into Namibia without a licence, possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, or attempting to do so. With Thomas found fit for trial after the trial ground to a halt in November 2014, he told the judge yesterday that he wanted the trial to stay halted so that he could get more time to attempt to persuade the Directorate of Legal Aid to again instruct a lawyer to represent him. Following the withdrawal of four defence lawyers who had previously been instructed by the directorate to represent him, legal aid director Moses Ndjarakana informed Thomas in a letter in July last year that the directorate would no longer be providing him with legal aid, since it appeared that most of his lawyers had withdrawn because he had been giving them “unattainable instructions”.

Judge Liebenberg refused Thomas’ request for another postponement of the case, reminding him that he had been warned with both previous postponements of the trial in July and again in November last year that he had to get his legal representation sorted out, and that a further postponement would be granted only in exceptional circumstances.

On hearing that the trial would not be kept on hold any more, Thomas told the judge he would then not be taking part in the trial. By the end of the first part of Muliokela’s testimony, he followed through on this by deciding not to make use of his right to cross-examine the witness.

Muliokela, who was warned at the start of his testimony that he would be asked to give evidence that would implicate himself in respect of criminal offences, told the court he met Thomas and Townsend on New Year’s Day 2011 when a cousin of his brought them to his mother’s house, introducing them to him as ‘Mr M’ and ‘Mr Cash’, and telling him they were looking for a firearm to buy.

Pointing at the tattooed Townsend in the dock, Muliokela said: “That’s ‘Mr Cash’.” Thomas, he added, was ‘Mr M’.

Muliokela said Thomas and Townsend explained to him that they wanted a gun for their own safety, and specified that it should be a 9mm calibre firearm. He said they also showed him two silver pipes, which they explained were parts that could be put into a gun to leave a mark on bullets fired from it. According to Muliokela, a friend of his, whom he had asked to help him get hold of a gun, could not find a 9mm calibre firearm, but offered a 7,65mm calibre instead, which the two Americans accepted.

That gun, priced at N$1 000, was handed over to ‘Mr M’ and ‘Mr Cash’ on 3 January 2011, when they made a first payment of N$500, with the rest of the price to be paid later, Muliokela recounted.

He said he saw Thomas and Townsend again during the afternoon of 7 January 2011, when they came to his home and paid the rest of the money for the gun, and an extra N$300 that was meant for himself.

Muliokela said he asked them what they had done with the gun, and Thomas answered: “You wouldn’t want to be found with a gun that has been used.” He added that Thomas also said he had thrown the gun away.

The trial is scheduled to continue today. Townsend is being represented by defence lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji. Deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef is representing the state.

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