THE 58-year-old Ernst Josef Lichtenstrasser confessed on video to the double murder of Namibia Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) director Eckhart Mueller and his deputy Heimo Hellwig, but claims that he was coerced into doing so to save his wife from being charged as an accomplice in the crime.
The accused person toned down his earlier military claims and struggle credentials by testifying that he is a second class war veteran and was in fact only a Swapo spy. He stated that he was not a specialist and technical advisor as he claimed earlier.
Lichtenstrasser brought a formal bail application before Magistrate Conchita Olivier on Thursday and while testifying on the timeline of events over the past two months, claimed that the team of detectives investigating the brutal double murder blackmailed him into confessing to the deed after three weeks of relentless interrogation.
“The interrogation started the moment the police arrested me at a service station in Karibib. I was constantly questioned by various detectives but at one stage during the Easter Weekend, I was informed that they were going to let me go as a suspect but that I would be rearrested because of the ammunition that they found in my car in Karibib.”
Lichtenstrasser testified that he appeared in the Karirib Magistrate’s Court on the charges of contravening the Namibian Arms and Ammunition Act where he was remanded in custody. He said after the court appearance he was transported to the Walvis Bay police station where he was interrogated relentlessly over the next three weeks.
“I kept asking the detectives to allow me to call my wife in order to solicit the services of a lawyer on my behalf, but they told me that I should direct that request to the station commander.
Lichtenstrasser testified that he told detectives that the ammunition found in his car belonged to his wife. He stated further that the detectives informed him that they got hold of his wife’s phone records which showed that she called a certain man, he named as Jason, on the morning of the double murder. He testified that the detectives accused him of using Jason’s number to secretly communicate with his wife.
“At one stage the detective told me that my wife will be arrested as an accomplice in the double murder and that it would ruin her life. They hammered on that point for days on end and I eventually decided to make the exact confession they have been asking me to make for three weeks to protect her.”
The accused person said he told the detectives what they have been putting to him during the long weeks of interrogation and that the confession was recorded on video in the offices of the serious crime unit of the Walvis Bay Police Station.
Lichtenstarsser said he was taken to the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court where he was supposed to make the same confession in the presence of Magistrate Nelao Brown.
“The magistrate asked me if I will be making the confession out of my own free will and I informed her that I will do so but under duress. I informed the magistrate that I never had access to a lawyer and that I need to contact my wife to organise one for me. She allowed me to make the call and once I spoke to my wife decided not to make the confession in front of the magistrate.”
He testified further that he was taken back to the Walvis Bay police station where he was charged with the double murder regardless.
At the start of the formal bail application Advocate Antonia Verhoef acting as a special prosecutor stated that the state opposes bail on the grounds that the charges are very serious and that it would not be in the public’s interest to set him free. Other grounds are that the accused person poses a flight risk and that he would interfere with the police investigation and possible witnesses.
Lichtenstrasser arrived at the court under heavy guard from members of the Namibian Police’s Special Reserve force because members of the public planned a peaceful protest outside the court. Security measures were also instituted at the entrance to court where members of the public was searched for weapons before they could enter.
The Mayor of Arandis, Risto Kapenda, handed the petition against the granting of bail to special prosecutor Antonia Verhoef on behalf of the public before the court procedures started. The petition contains nearly 3 000 signatures from people from Namibia and abroad.
The formal bail application was not completed on Thursday and the matter was postponed and set to continue on Friday morning when Lichtenstrasser’s wife will be called to testify on his behalf.