Escape Ends On Prison Fence

A DESPERATE attempt to escape from Windhoek Correctional Facility ended upside down on a razor wire fence for American murder accused Marcus Thomas yesterday morning.

As dawn broke over Windhoek on the day that Thomas and a compatriot, Kevan Donnell Townsend, were due to go on trial in the High Court, Thomas was found in a compromising and uncomfortable position where he was hanging helpless from a razor wire fence on the grounds of Namibia’s biggest jail, previously known as Windhoek Central Prison.

Having managed to get out of the cell where he was supposed to be securely locked up, Thomas succeeded in scaling one of the fences separating the prison building from the outside world – only to get his right foot snagged at the top on the fence. Thomas’ quest for freedom ended with him dangling upside down from the fence, bleeding from open wounds to his head and hands, and crying for help from prison warders who had discovered him on the razor wire barrier.

The Windhoek fire brigade was summoned to help free Thomas from the fence. Having been freed, he was taken back into custody.

Tools, maps of Windhoek and Swakopmund, and a cellphone were reportedly found with Thomas.

The prison authorities are investigating the escape attempt and would be able to comment on the matter only after some progress has been made with the investigation, the head spokesperson of the Namibian Correctional Service, Deputy Commissioner Evy January, said yesterday.

Thomas (29) and Townsend (28) were supposed to go on trial before Judge Christie Liebenberg yesterday on charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, importation of firearm barrels into Namibia without a permit, possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, or attempting to do so.

All of the charges are connected to the killing of the 25-year-old Andre Peter Heckmair in Windhoek on 7 January 2011. Heckmair was killed when he was shot in the head in a cul-de-sac in Klein Windhoek, where the two men had allegedly lured him to.

The prosecution is alleging that Thomas and Townsend arrived in Namibia on 27 December 2010, after they had sent a parcel containing two pistol barrels or silencers from Finland to Namibia, and that they started to make enquiries about the whereabouts of Heckmair from the time of their arrival in the country.

In the indictment containing the charges against the two accused the prosecution is also charging that Thomas and Townsend illegally bought a pistol in Namibia and that they made contact with Heckmair, urging him to meet them, after obtaining his cellphone number. He eventually agreed to meet them on 7 January 2011, it is alleged in the indictment.

With the botched escape under investigation, Thomas and Townsend were not transported from prison to the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Deputy prosecutor general Antonia Verhoef, who is set to conduct the prosecution of the two men, informed Judge Liebenberg that Thomas had escaped from lawful custody and that he was found hanging from a fence surrounding the prison, before she asked for a postponement of their case until today.

Defence lawyer Werner van Rensburg, who is representing Thomas, indicated to the judge that he and his colleague, Boris Isaacks, planned to ask for a further postponement until Thursday, since they have not been able to have consultations with the two accused over the past weekend to prepare for their trial.

Thomas and Townsend have been in custody since their arrest on the day that Heckmair was killed.

Source : The Namibian