American murder accused loses lawyer

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Windhoek

Marcus Thomas, 29, one of two Americans accused of the murder of Namibian citizen Andre Heckmair in Windhoek five years ago, found himself without a lawyer in the High Court this week.

This is after the State-funded defence lawyer Monty Karuaihe withdrew from the case. Thomas and his countryman Kevan Donell Townsend, 28, made a brief appearance during a pre-trial case management hearing before Judge Christie Liebenberg on Wednesday.

Defence lawyer Mbanga Siyomuinji is representing Townsend, while Karuaihe is no longer interested in the case and has decided to withdraw from representing Tomas. Karuaihe is the second lawyer to withdraw from the case.

Lawyer Willem Visser decided not to continue after Tomas told the court at beginning of the trial he wants to plead guilty to the charges. The matter was then postponed to February 24 to allow the justice ministry’s directorate of legal aid to make arrangements for the appointment of another defence lawyer for Tomas.

The two are accused of murdering Andre Heckmair, 25, in Windhoek on January 7, 2011.
Heckmair died after he was shot execution-style in the back of the head in a car on a quiet street in Klein Windhoek.

The State alleges that Thomas and Townsend planned the killing of Heckmair and travelled from the United States of America to Namibia near the end of December 2010 to carry out their plan.

They are also accused of having sent a silencer to Namibia from Finland and of having illegally imported two pistol barrels into the country, before they illegally bought a pistol and ammunition in Namibia.

During a five-week period of psychiatric observation from March 10 to April 16 last year, Thomas was found to have difficulties with his memory, that his ability to acquire and process knowledge was impaired, and that he struggled with abstract reasoning.

In November 2014 Thomas attempted to escape from the Windhoek Correctional facility where he is being detained. He failed in his attempted prison-break and hung upside down from the boundary fence for several hours and reportedly suffered injury to his head in the process.

In May last year Dr Mthoko reported on behalf of the panel involved in examining Thomas’ mental state. Mthoko stated then that they concluded that Thomas was “not fit to stand trial” at the time the report on his mental condition was written in April last year.

Deputy Prosecutor General Antonia Verhoef, representing the State, informed Judge Liebenberg at the time that the State had a number of problems with the report. She said the report was incomplete and difficult to follow. Verhoef then asked the judge to issue a subpoena to Dr Mthoko to testify in court in order to explain the report and their findings.

The two Americans were arrested in Windhoek a few hours after the killing of Heckmair in January 2011 and have been in custody since.

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