Acquittal After Sloppy Police Work

A SLOPPY police investigation has led to the acquittal of a Katima Mulilo resident who was accused of robbing two women and raping one of them four years ago.

Police officers involved in the investigation of the charges against Limbo Geoffrey Chunga (34) displayed a lack of dedication and were guilty of a serious dereliction of duty, Judge Christie Liebenberg commented on Friday last week in a judgement in which he acquitted Chunga on all charges that he had been facing in the Oshakati High Court.

Chunga was found not guilty on two counts of rape and charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances and attempted murder.

The charges flowed from an incident that took place at Katima Mulilo in the early morning hours of 20 March 2010, when two women were allegedly robbed by a knife-wielding man while they were walking home from a club where they had spent the evening.

One of the women sustained a cut to her chest when the robber stabbed at her with the knife. After the robber had at first demanded money from them, he got them to hand over their cellphones to him, Judge Liebenberg recounted in his judgement.

He then ordered the women to walk along a road with him for some distance before they continued along a footpath into a bushy area. There, he forced them to undress and raped one of them twice.

The women, who said their attacker was wearing a cap, told the court they saw his face when his cap came off at the scene of the rape.

Chunga was arrested the following day, after a friend of the women had identified him as fitting the description of the attacker that was given by the women.

Then, however, came a succession of failings in the police’s investigation.

Chunga’s residence was never searched to check if any of the items stolen from the women during the robbery could be found. Judge Liebenberg commented on this score: “This oversight on the part of the police, in my view, constitutes a serious dereliction of duty, for had any of the items been found in his possession he would have been directly linked to the incident which took place the previous night.”

Another shortcoming in the prosecution’s case was that the police failed to obtain statements from other people living in the same house as Chunga after he claimed that he had an alibi as he was at home during the night of the attack on the women.

A further shortcoming was that the police did not conduct an identification parade to check if the two women could identify Chunga.

The case was not investigated with a sense of urgency either. More than 13 months passed after the incident before the police recorded a witness statement from the witness who claimed to have recognised Chunga’s clothing on the night of the incident from the descriptions given by the women. A year and nine months passed before one of the women was taken back to the crime scene to point out the scene to a police photographer, Judge Liebenberg further noted.

“One would have expected that any evidence that could possibly prove the State’s case against the accused would already have been obtained from the witness during the police’s first interview, and not one year later,” he commented.

The police showed a “lack of dedication” during the investigation of the case, and that likely contributed to the fact that it took four years before Chunga’s trial began, “which, in my view, amounts to a travesty of justice”, Judge Liebenberg said.

After weighing up the two women’s testimony Judge Liebenberg concluded that little weight could be attached to their evidence on the identification of their attacker.

The evidence indicated that the other witness had been under the influence of alcohol when he claimed to have seen Chunga on the evening of the incident, and there should be some doubt whether he had positively identified Chunga, the judge found.

He concluded that in the circumstances of the case there was a reasonable possibility that Chunga’s alibi defence was true.

Deputy Prosecutor General Ruben Shileka conducted the prosecution in Chunga’s trial. Chunga was represented by defence lawyer Godfrey Bondai.

Source : The Namibian