Two Americans accused of murdering a young man in Windhoek near the start of 2011 will both be asking to be found not guilty, after the state closed its case in their long-running trial in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.
Defence lawyers Salomon Kanyemba and Mbanga Siyomunji, who are representing Americans Marcus Thomas and Kevan Townsend, respectively, informed judge Christie Liebenberg that they have instructions to apply for their clients’ acquittal after deputy prosecutor Antonia Verhoef announced the end of the state’s case in their trial.
Liebenberg told the two defence lawyers and prosecutor that they should file written arguments on the two accused men’s applications to be discharged at the end of the state’s case, and that he would give a ruling on the applications on 19 June.
Thomas and Townsend – both currently aged 37 – are accused of murdering a 25-year-old man, Andre Heckmair, in Windhoek on 7 January 2011.
Heckmair was killed when he was shot in the head in a car in a dead-end street in Klein Windhoek.
There were no known eyewitnesses to the killing, and the police have not found the firearm used in the shooting.
Thomas and Townsend were arrested during the evening of 7 January 2011 at a guest house where they were staying in Windhoek.
The state is alleging that they travelled from the United States to Namibia near the end of December 2010 to carry out a plan to murder Heckmair, who was a student at a hospitality school in Switzerland and had lived and worked in New York City during 2010.
More than 30 state witnesses have testified during the two men’s trial, which started in November 2014, when both accused denied guilt on six charges.
The charges include counts of murder, the possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence, and the importation of firearm barrels into Namibia without a permit.
Verhoef closed the prosecution’s case after presenting the testimony of more than 30 state witnesses to the court in the main part of the trial.
The first state witness testified before Liebenberg in November 2014, before the trial was interrupted for four years by an ultimately failed attempt by Thomas to be declared mentally unfit to be tried and a similarly failed bid to get the judge to step down from the case.
The state’s evidence includes testimony from witnesses who have told the court that Thomas and Townsend were looking for a 9mm pistol to buy in Windhoek at the start of 2011.
Witnesses also told the court that a different calibre firearm – a 7,65mm pistol – was eventually sold to the two men.
Heckmair was shot with a 7,65mm firearm, it was revealed when a projectile of that calibre was found in his neck after his death.
In other testimony, the court heard that Thomas and Townsend were making enquiries about Heckmair and trying to get his phone number near the end of December 2010 at a Windhoek shopping mall where Heckmair’s parents had a restaurant.
The trial was in progress for nearly seven years before a defence lawyer representing Thomas told the court that according to Thomas he knew Heckmair in a business capacity and that the two of them were supposed to meet for lunch on the day that Heckmair was killed.
Police officers who testified during the trial have also testified that two 9mm firearm barrels and a gun silencer were found among the two men’s belongings at their guest house. The barrels and silencer were new and unused.
In instructions that Thomas and Townsend gave to their defence lawyers, they have claimed that the police planted the barrels and gun silencer in their room.
Thomas and Townsend have both been held in custody since their arrest in January 2011.
A bail application by Townsend was dismissed in the High Court in October 2020.