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Double murder accused confronted with murder weapon

Double murder accused confronted with murder weapon

Niël Terblanché
GOOD old fashioned detective work led to the discovery of the nine millimetre pistol used in the execution style double murder of Namibia Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) director Eckhart Mueller and his deputy Heimo Hellwig where the accused person hid in the desert.
Ernst Josef Lichtenstrasser was confronted with this information during the second day of his formal bail application in the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court while under cross examination by special prosecutor Advocate Antonia Verhoef. This, after he claimed that he was coerced into confessing to the brutal double murder after three weeks of relentless interrogation by a team of detectives.
At the start of the cross examination of Lichtenstrasser’s evidence in chief, Advocate Verhoef informed him that he is under no obligation to incriminate himself by answering questions she put to him.
While under cross examination, the murder accused was taken through the various steps of the police investigation which included correspondence between him and the late Mueller, him quarrelling with his wife and travelling to Arandis to ‘cool off’ with the retrenched principal of the NIMT campus at Tsumeb, Jason Elao, his affinity for fire arms and his ability to add or remove serial numbers from such weapons, his actions days before the murder, his arrest and his eventual confession to the double murder made to detectives.
Up until the time he was confronted with the detail of his confession the accused person denied that he ever owned a nine millimetre pistol legally or illegally.

In his confession however, Lichtenstrasser told police that the murder weapon was the last from the stash that was found on the resettlement farm of his former wife in the Karibib district during 2015. At the time he was arrested and later acquitted on the charges that related to several unlicensed firearms found in a cave on the farm and a hand grenade found in his car in Tsumeb. He said the pistol belonged to a former member of the notorious counter insurgency police unit, Koevoet.
Lichtenstrasser said in his confession that he went ‘on a mission’ and that arrived at Arandis on the Sunday. He slept in his car and when he awoke early on Monday that he waited for Mueller and his two colleagues to arrive in the car they usually drove. He then described how he followed Mueller’s vehicle and then confronting them at the NIMT administration building as they got out of the vehicle.
He said he lost his mind when the late Mueller spoke to him in a certain tone of voice and shot both men. He told police that he shot Hellwig first and then proceeded to shoot Mueller. Both victims were shot in the abdomen and then in the head in a move that he described as the Mozambique Drill. He said he learned the technique from special operation force soldiers while training to do spy work for Swapo
After the murder Lichtenstrasser told police that he drove towards Usakos and later turned off the road and went into the desert where he hid the murder weapon at a rocky outcrop. He stated that he took strong painkillers and that he was drinking alcohol at the time and would not be able to find the place again to point it out to detectives
Meanwhile and unbeknownst to the suspect one of the detectives went through the various statements made by members of the public in the days after the double murder. One of the people, a cleaner at NIMT, stated that she saw a white double cab bakkie on the road behind the Arandis campus on the morning of the double murder. The Nissan NP300 she saw was similar to the one the accused person was driving at the time. In her affidavit she described how she saw the vehicle drive off into the desert and away from Arandis.
The detective followed up on the information in the cleaner’s affidavit and found tracks leading first to a railway bridge and then further into the desert to rocky outcrop.
After returning to the scene a few days later with scene of crime specialists and metal detecting device, the detectives found a disassembled nine millimetre Beretta pistol and 18 nine millimetre rounds hidden under a rock.
Casts were made of the tyre tracks and the shoe prints in the sand and the pistol and the bullets were sent away for forensic analysis.
The results of the analysis positively connected the pistol and ammunition found under the rock as the murder weapon because of the eight spent cartridges that were found on the murder scene. The firearm was also connected to spent cartridges found at the accused person’s house. The cartridges found at his house in Otavi were from a target practice session mere days before the murder, where Lichtenstrasser was also practicing the so called Mozambique Drill, according to the affidavit of a fellow shooting club member.
Advocate Verhoef informed the accused person that the detectives also found a holster for the pistol and that they are still awaiting DNA results from a forensic laboratory.
The special prosecutor put it to the accused person that even if he managed to successfully argue the inadmissibility of the confession during his trial later, that the murder weapon and the circumstantial evidence without doubt puts him at the scene of the crime.
Lichtenstrasser admitted that the evidence, as presented by the state, is overwhelming but then stated that it was fabricated in a conspiracy by his former enemies from the days of the Liberation Struggle. He stated that one of people in the conspiracy is a former Apartheid Regime police officer who is currently acting as the director of NIMT.
After Advocate Verhoef concluded her cross examination of the witness and certain statements made by Lichtenstrasser was re-examined by his legal representative, Trevor Brockerhoff, Magistrate Conchita Olivier postponed the matter to 8 July 2019 for the continuation of the bail application.

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