Judge must decide whose version to believe

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Roland Routh

Windhoek-The state-funded lawyer of a young man accused of strangling the mother of his child to death with a nylon rope at a farm near Aroab in the deep south of Namibia, yesterday told Judge Dinah Usiku at the Windhoek High Court at the Windhoek Correctional Facility that she only has to decide whether she believes the version of the accused or the testimony of the doctor that conducted the post-mortem on the deceased.

Milton Engelbrecht from Engelbrecht Attorneys told Judge Usiku that if she finds that the version of the accused could reasonably possibly be true, she would have no other option than to acquit 20-year-old Willem Freddy Eksteen on the charge of murder he faces.

Eksteen stands accused of murdering Janetta Babiep with whom he was in a romantic relationship and had a child during the period September 21 to 22, 2014 at a farm near Aroab in the Keetmanshoop District.
He claims that Babiep committed suicide by hanging herself from the roof of a room they together slept in.

According to Eksteen, after he and the deceased made love, he went to sleep but when he woke up the next morning he realised that the deceased was no longer lying next to him. He then lit a candle and saw her hanging from the roof.
“I panicked and cut her from the roof and when I realised she was dead I cut the piece of rope from the roof and fastened it around the bedpost,” Eksteen told the court.

Thereafter he went to call the brother of the deceased and informed him that the deceased committed suicide, Eksteen explained to the court.

He was arrested after the first police officer at the scene, Sergeant Fredericks, suspected foul play because of the position of the body and the rope tied on the bedpost.

The doctor also testified that it was impossible for the accused to have hung herself as the marks around her neck were “horizontal” and not indicative of a person that was hanging from her neck.

Doctor Verkusha Maksym from the Keetmanshoop State Hospital further said that the ligature marks suggested that she was strangled from behind with the rope. Engelbrecht however rubbished the doctor’s remarks during his submissions. According to him the doctor could not say under cross-examination whether the deceased was lying down, sitting or standing when she died.

He argued that there is no substantive evidence to suggest that the deceased did not hang herself and subsequently said the state’s case is based on purely circumstantial evidence, and the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt.

State Advocate Felicitas Sikerete-Vendura argued that the doctor’s evidence should be accepted as he is the medical expert. She further said that the guilty plea Eksteen made in the Keetmanshoop Magistrate’s Court should serve as proof of his guilt.

Notwithstanding the fact that Judge Usiku declared the guilty plea as part of the evidence, Engelbrecht argued that the judge could revisit that decision on further facts. Those, he said, are that the accused who was a mere 18 years old at the time had an instilled fear of the police. He added that the accused was afraid that if he did not do exactly as the police, especially Chief Inspector Kauhanda, told him to do, he would be subjected to punishment, as he was in the custody of Kauhanda.

During a trial-within-a-trial Eksteen told the court that Kauhanda told him what to say in a confession and during the plea proceedings in the magistrate’s court. The confession was thrown out by the judge.
Judge Usiku will deliver her judgement on February 26 next year and Eksteen is out on a warning.

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