Psychiatrist testifies in uxoricide trial

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Roland Routh

Windhoek-A Windhoek-based psychiatrist on Wednesday testified on behalf of the defense in the trial of a 64-year-old farmer from the Aranos area charged with the alleged murder of his 55-year-old wife with a single gunshot to the head.

Dr Gerhard Marx told the court he had various consulting sessions with Willem Barnard and in his view Barnard was not a violent man nor given to violent tendencies.

“I found no signs and symptoms suggestive of irritability, agitation or impulsivity during the time I have spent with him,” the psychiatrist stated in his expert testimony.

He informed the court his analysis of Barnard focussed mainly on the possible effects of psychoactive substances on the behaviour of Barnard on the fateful night.

He continued: after carefully reviewing the sequence of events as described by Barnard up until the point of having no memory of subsequent events, it seems highly likely that he would in fact suffer from memory loss for the latter stages of April 9, 2010 (the night of the incident).

He added that Barnard had for years been taking psychoactive substances, Alprazolam and Zopiclone, both Benzodiazepines, which are medicines that help relieve nervousness, tension, and other symptoms by slowing the central nervous system combining it with alcohol.

According to the psychiatrist, the amount and combination of the alcohol with the drugs consumed on that day would be highly likely to cause memory loss for several hours.

“Furthermore, it seems very possible that Mr Barnard might not have been able to appreciate the moral and legal wrongfulness of his alleged actions due to the timing, amount and combination of psycho-active substances he and his wife consumed during the course of the day the alleged offence occurred.”

According to the doctor, it is a well-known fact that Benzodiazepines, especially in combination with alcohol can cause memory impairment, impulsivity, poor judgment and states of confusion.

However, he said, these side-effects of the drugs were usually limited to the period of intoxication on the substance, meaning Barnard could possibly have been incapable of understanding the moral and legal wrongfulness of his alleged actions, only for the short period while intoxicated on the mentioned substances.

He went on to say: “I would like to reiterate the point regarding past behaviour as a predictor of future behaviour. Mr Barnard’s past behaviour and actuarial profile does not fit with a person who would resort to violence with a firearm. His past behaviour seems to suggest that even under extreme provocation he usually manages to refrain from violence, referring to three instances in the past where the deceased tried to harm him.”

According to evidence provided during the trial, the deceased tried on three occasions to kill Barnard by stabbing him, firing two shots at him with a revolver and by trying to poison him.
Barnard is on trial for the alleged murder of his wife, Anette Barnard and pleaded not guilty.

He is represented by Adv Louis Botes on instructions from SC Garbers . Adv Palmer Khumalo assisted by Cliff Luthibezi is prosecuting. Judge Naomi Shivute is on the bench.
The case was postponed to August 18 for submissions on the verdict. Barnard is on bail.

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