Windhoek-Minutes after the defense lawyer of Rhyno Richardo du Preez, 33, withdrew the guilty plea he wanted to enter on behalf of his client, the defense counsel of his co-accused, Rachel Elizabeth Rittmann, 46, threw a spanner into the proceedings by applying for a psychiatric evaluation.
Boris Isaacks, the state-funded lawyer for Du Preez informed the court on Tuesday that the State is not willing to accept his plea as it stands at the moment.
Isaacks said he now has instructions to withdraw the guilty plea and asked that the proposed plea not be used as evidence against his client.
He informed the court on Monday his client wished to plead guilty on three of the four charges he and Rachel face.
They face one count of murder, read with the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act; one count of conspiracy to commit murder; one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances; and one count of defeating or attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.
Du Preez wanted to plead guilty on the murder, conspiracy and obstructing the course of justice charges only, but not guilty to the robbery charge.
He provided the court, the State and Rittmann’s lawyer with a lengthy plea explanation in which he basically put the blame for the murder plot squarely on the shoulders of Rachel.
According to the State, Du Preez and Rachel conspired to kill her husband, Rudolph Henry Rittmann. It is alleged they stabbed the late Rittmann to death at his home in Gobabis and then drove the body in his vehicle to a secluded spot in the veld, where they set it on fire with the body inside.
They allegedly did this to create the impression of an accident. The 35-year-old Rittmann’s burnt remains were found in his car a few kilometres outside the Hosea Kutako International Airport, along the Windhoek-Gobabis road a few days after the incident.
Ujaha told the court on Tuesday that since Monday’s proceedings he tried in vain to consult with Rachel to work out a defense.
According to him, she did not make any sense and it was only after he consulted with her family members that he was told she suffers from anxiety attacks and depressive moods. She allegedly consulted various psychiatrists, including one Dr Jooste in Windhoek, as well as Dr Gerhardus Marx and Dr Heinrich Schmidt in Gobabis.
He asked for a postponement to approach one of the psychiatrists to give evidence on the state of mind of Rachel, but State Advocate Marthino Olivier, assisted by Ethel Ndlovu, opposed the postponement and said it was a delaying tactic.
According to Olivier, the application comes conveniently after Du Preez’s plea explanation was handed to Ujaha and his client had insight into it. He observed that during the lengthy pre-trial proceedings there was no mention of mental defect.
Judge Christi Liebenberg granted Ujaha the opportunity to consult with the psychiatrists and postponed the matter to today.