American murder suspect Tomas now wants to plead guilty: Court

WINDHOEK; American national Marcus Kevin Tomas now wants to plead guilty to the alleged killing of Windhoek resident Andre Heckmair in 2011, although earlier denying any involvement.

The 29-year-old Tomas surprised his State-sponsored defence lawyer Werner van Rensburg on Tuesday during a four-hour marathon consultation at the Windhoek Correctional Facility when Tomas gave new and dramatic instructions.

He indicated that he now wishes to tender a guilty plea to the six charges levelled against him by the State.

These six charges are murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, the unlawful importation of a firearm into Namibia, the illegal possession of a firearm, the illegal possession of ammunition and attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

The American murder suspect’s decision to plead guilty was made public before presiding High Court judge Christie Liebenberg here on Wednesday.

Judge Liebenberg, after listening to oral submissions by Van Rensburg with regards to his application for withdrawal, then allowed the defence lawyer to withdraw from the case.

As a result of the withdrawal of the defence lawyer from the case and Tomas’ decision to change his pleas, Liebenberg issued an order that the American murder suspect first be referred to the psychiatric section of the Windhoek Central Hospital for a 30-day mental observation in order to establish whether he is fit to stand trial and understand the proceedings.

A report on Tomas’ mental fitness will be made public in court on 08 December this year.

He is charged in the matter alongside fellow countryman Kevan Donell Townsend, 28.

Meanwhile, the trial is now only expected to resume in the Windhoek High Court on 20 July 2015 due to a full roll.

Tomas earlier attempted to escape from the Windhoek Correctional Facility (formerly the Windhoek Central Prison) on 02 November this year.

In his failed attempt to regain freedom, he allegedly climbed a tree inside the premises of the Windhoek Correctional Facility before he tried to jump over the razor-wire fence surrounding it.

He, however, did not manage to jump over the fence, and landed on top of it instead.

Tomas was found hanging from the fence by prison officers on 03 November between 07h00 and 07h30.

The prison authorities had to call in a team from the City of Windhoek’s Emergency Department to remove him, and he was hospitalised.

Accused Townsend, who is being represented by Windhoek-based defence lawyer Boris Isaaks, is still denying any involvement in the alleged killing, and has already entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ to a total of six charges levelled against him by the State.

Isaaks is defending Townsend on the instructions of the Justice Ministry’s Directorate of Legal Aid.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Antonia Verhoef is representing the State.

During the duo’s first court appearance on 14 January 2011, Townsend denied knowing the deceased, claiming that he first heard that name after his arrest.

Tomas and Townsend are the only names mentioned by the police so far in connection with the investigation into the murder.

According to the police, Heckmair was scheduled to return to Europe for studies after spending a holiday with his family in Namibia, but was found dead behind the wheel of a Land Cruiser pick-up at a cul-de-sac in Klein Windhoek.

Investigations launched by the police led them to a guesthouse in Windhoek West later that day, where they arrested Tomas and Townsend.

The Serious Crime Unit of the police initially arrested the two on a charge of illegal possession of dagga in order to keep them in custody while they were busy investigating the murder case and their links to Heckmair.

NamPol’s Crime Co-ordinator for the Khomas Region, Deputy Commissioner Sylvanus Nghishidimbwa said at the time that the police had been unable to locate the murder weapon or the mobile phone and wallet containing at least N.dollars 1 000, which were missing from Heckmair’s car.

Townsend told the police that he is a resident of New York, while Tomas said he lives in Los Angeles.

The two Americans are being held at the Windhoek Correctional Facility, with no option to post bail.