Two Black Americans get further delay in murder trial in Namibia

Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend
Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend

The trial of two American citizens facing charges over the killing of a young man in Windhoek in January 2011 was again postponed in the High Court – this time to give the latest defence lawyer of one of the accused more time to prepare for the case.

Before postponing the case of American nationals Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend to 16 September, judge Christie Liebenberg noted that although the matter has already been on the High Court’s roll for more than five years, the testimony of only two of the prosecution’s witnesses has been heard in the men’s trial so far. He remarked that he was reluctantly postponing the case on a request by Thomas’ new defence lawyer, Titus Ipumbu, who asked for a postponement to give him more time to prepare for the trial.

Thomas was without legal representation from July last year, when a defence lawyer instructed by the Directorate of Legal Aid to represent him withdrew from his case due to a conflict of interests, since he had previously represented one of the prosecution’s witnesses in the matter. The directorate subsequently decided to end the legal aid it had granted to Thomas, leaving him unrepresented, but last month had a change of heart and instructed Ipumbu to represent Thomas.

Townsend was also without legal representation for a while after he indicated in February this year that he no longer wanted to be represented by defence lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji, resulting in another postponement of the trial – only for Siyomunji to return as his lawyer a month later.

The two men’s trial started in November 2014, when both denied guilt on all of the charges they are facing. Thomas (33) and Townsend (33) are charged with having murdered the 25-year-old Andre Heckmair on 7 January 2011 by shooting him in the head where he sat in a car in a quiet street in Klein Windhoek. The state is alleging that the two Americans travelled from the USA to Namibia in late December 2010 to carry out a plan to murder Heckmair, who had previously lived in the US. They are charged with counts of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, importation of firearm parts into Namibia without a licence, possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, or attempting to do so. They have been in custody since their arrest in Windhoek on the evening of 7 January 2011.

Ipumbu also informed the judge that he would apply to have the state’s second witness in the trial recalled. Thomas refused to question the witness, who told the court that he sold a firearm and bullets to the two Americans in an illegal transaction at the start of January 2011, when he testified in the trial in February this year.