Charges Over Fatal Farm Attack Withdrawn

TWO of the men accused of taking part in a fatal attack on an aged resident of a farm in the Karibib area in November 2009 are off the hook – for now at least – after the charges against them were withdrawn in the Windhoek High Court on Friday.

The charges against Johannes Khoaseb (47) and Constans Swartbooi (38) were withdrawn because the man who is supposed to be in the dock with them, Paulus Mwengo (28), is still a fugitive from justice after escaping from police custody four years ago.

The latest information on Mwengo’s whereabouts was that he appeared to have left Namibia and to have taken on another name, Deputy Prosecutor General Antonia Verhoef told Judge Alfred Siboleka before informing him that the State could not continue with its prosecution of Khoaseb and Swartbooi in the absence of Mwengo.

The case against Khoaseb and Swartbooi was postponed repeatedly over the past four years in an attempt to give the police enough time to track down and rearrest Mwengo. The three men were set to be prosecuted on charges of murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and possession of firearms and ammunition without a licence.

Khoaseb and Swartbooi spent about four and a half years in police custody before the charges against them were withdrawn.

They and Mwengo were arrested in November 2009 in connection with an armed robbery during which an 89-year-old resident of a farm in the Karibib area, Charlotte (‘Lottie’) Jooste, was attacked at her and her son’s house on 7 November 2009.

The robbers who attacked Jooste and an employee were allegedly armed with a rifle, pistol and knives. They allegedly also fired shots at a man employed at the farm when he approached the farmhouse to investigate screaming that he had heard.

Jooste was assaulted and tied up and sustained a leg fracture during the attack. She died in a hospital in Windhoek two days after the incident.

Swartbooi told a magistrate in the Karibib Magistrate’s Court shortly after the three men’s arrest that he had taken part in the robbery at the farm where Jooste lived with her son. He said Mwengo and Khoaseb were with him at the farm, that they had tied up Jooste, and that he stole some tobacco during the incident.

Mwengo said he had gone to the farm with an unlicenced pistol to look for meat. Khoaseb said he had gone to the farm to hunt, but claimed that he turned back and returned to Karibib because he had an injured knee.

Khoaseb and Swartbooi, represented by defence lawyers Willem Visser and Winnie Christians respectively, are the second set of alleged farm robbers and killers who have had charges against themselves withdrawn in the High Court this year because of the escape of a co-accused.

At the end of January, the prosecution also withdrew the charges against two men, Rafael Kahinatjo and Gabriel Uazeua, who were accused of having been involved in the murder and robbery of farming couple Jan and Toets Kruger (aged 80 and 73 respectively) in the Omaruru area during the night of 12 to 13 March 2009.

In their case, a co-accused, Daniel Kavari, who went under the name Ebson Tumbireeko, escaped from police custody at Omaruru in February 2010. He still remains on the run.

Source : The Namibian