WITNESSING the last days before he is set to hear his fate after a six-year long trial, Ryno Du Preez, who was found guilty of killing his lover’s husband, before setting alight the body in a ploy to conceal the crime begged the court to give him a second chance at life by showing leniency during sentencing.
Du Preez, 35, who appeared for pre-sentencing arguments alongside his co-accused and ex-lover, Rachel Rittmann, 48, gave a lengthy remorse filled testimony before Judge Christie Liebenberg.
The two will be sentenced in the Windhoek High Court on 22 October after the prosecutor proposed life imprisonment for both of the convicted persons.
Rachel and her young lover were found guilty of killing her husband, Rudolf Henry Rittmann, in August 2013, as well as conspiracy to commit murder and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
Rachel actively participated in the early planning to bring about the death of her husband in order to cash in on the inheritance of the deceased. Du Preez agreed to kill Rudolf by stabbing him to death with a knife whilst sleeping at his home in Gobabis on 23 August 2013 because, as he said, he was in love with Rachel at the time.
They thereafter transported the body in the late Rudolf’s vehicle to an area between the Hosea Kutako International Airport and Kapps Farm in the Khomas Region, where they set the vehicle alight with the body of the victim inside in an attempt to conceal evidence.
Du-Preez, who was 29-years-old at the time, of the incident stated: “When I look back at my actions I can see they are morally wrong. I am regretful of my actions. I sincerely apologise to the Ritmann family and I wish that there was something I could do to bring him back, but I am only human. I’m deeply sorry.”
He further stated that since the incident, he had arranged to meet up with the late Rudolf’s family to seek atonement.
“I’ve learned a lot in the past 6 years. I have learned that a man should be led by principles and have a vision and should be God fearing. To cause pain to someone is not a good thing. I am whole-heartedly begging the court to be lenient towards me and take into consideration the circumstances that led up to the crime. Please give me a second chance at life. I want to inspire others to do the right thing,” Du Preez testified.
Legal Aid funded defence lawyers Ileni Gebhardt and Johan van Vuuren represented the convicts.
On behalf of Du-Preez, Gebhardt argued that the accused is a first time offender and has no previous convictions. She further stated that Du Preez is a remorseful person who took the court into his confidence and provided the court with his role and the facts that he is aware of in the crime.
She added that Du Preez’s decision to murder Rudolf was influenced by the romantic relationship he had with Rachel. Gebhardt added that a life sentence is not appropriate considering the personal circumstance of Du Preez.
On behalf of Rachel, defence lawyer Van Vuuren also stated that the court should consider the general health of Rachel as she suffers from panic attacks and chronic depression, adding that this factors should count heavily in mitigation of sentencing.
He added that the sentence of life imprisonment would not be appropriate taking into consideration the above factors.
Negating this, state prosecutor Marthino Olivier stated that what makes the crime aggravating is how the offence was committed.
“The crime was planned since June 2013. The motive included monetary reasons as well as jealousy. Another aggravating factor is that the deceased was asleep in his home. It is a place where one should feel safe and not be murdered in such a manner. The body of the deceased was burned and charred beyond recognition to cover up the crime. The crime was very horrific. The wife of the deceased executed the murder with her lover. Based on the facts, both accused deserve the most severe sentence, which is life imprisonment,” Olivier stated.