Setback for man accused of setting woman alight

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Photo: Roland Routh In defence… Ivan Hoëbeb with his lawyer Milton Engelbrecht

Roland Routh

Windhoek-An eventful day at the murder, rape, robbery and defeating the course of justice trial of an Otjiwarongo resident ended yesterday with Judge Christi Liebenberg dismissing a Section 174 application to discharge three of the four charges.

The accused in the matter, Ivan Hoëbeb, is charged with killing Elizabeth Ganses, who was 26 at the time of her death, during October 30 to 31, 2015 after he allegedly raped her, stole her cellphone and SIM card, and then setting her body alight.

Milton Engelbrecht indicated to the court immediately after State Advocate Henry Muhongo closed the State’s case that he will apply to have the charges of rape, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing or defeating, or attempting to defeat or obstruct, the course of justice discharged in the Windhoek High Court.

According to Engelbrecht, no credible evidence was adduced by the State to allow a reasonable court, acting carefully, to convict or to demand an answer from the accused.
He said the doctor who performed the autopsy, Dr Lander Betancourt, conceded under cross-examination that no evidence was found to suggest rape occurred and the DNA evidence also did not link Hoëbeb to the deceased.

He said the blood found on a blade at the scene was that of the deceased only.
The confession Hoëbeb made to a magistrate two days after his arrest, only refers to the murder, Engelbrecht emphasised and stressed the confession is consistent with what Hoëbeb said in his Section 119 pleadings as well as with the instructions put to State witnesses.

According to Engelbrecht, the State failed to produce prima facie evidence against his client on the three charges and it stands that he must be acquitted, but that he must be put on his defence on the murder charge.

Hoëbeb admitted he was in the company of the deceased on that fateful night, but claimed her death was the result of an unfortunate accident. He denied having raped the deceased or stealing her cellphone and setting her body alight.

Muhongo argued the only inference the court can draw from the evidence produced so far in the trial is that it was the accused who committed the offences he is accused of. He said that not only did Hoëbeb admit to a senior police officer, Moses Khairabeb, that he raped and strangled the accused, but that he stole her phone as well. He said the doctor testified that he found an 120mm and 112mm deep injury on the genitalia of the deceased, which together with the admission to Khairabeb and the position the body was found, on her back and undressed, could lead to only one conclusion, which is rape.

With regard to the robbery charge, he said Hoëbeb admitted being in possession of the cellphone and the fact that the deceased used her phone at around 02h00 that morning indicated that she was in possession of the phone and it was forcibly taken from her.

On the defeating charge, he said the only inference that can be drawn from the fact that the accused made a call from the deceased’s phone at 04h42 and the body was found at 05h15 still smouldering was that it was the accused who set it on fire.

He said it was unthinkable that a passer-by would set fire to a body they found in such a manner.

Judge Liebenberg agreed with most of Muhongo’s arguments and ordered that Hoëbeb be put on his defence.

He will testify in his own defence today and remains in custody.

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