Last Accused Acquitted of Tjipueja Murder

EIGHT years after the disappearance and killing of a farmer in the Rehoboth area in June 2007, the only person still facing charges in connection with the incident, was found not guilty on all counts in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Judge Naomi Shivute acquitted Rayno Olivier (33) on charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, alternatively violating a dead body, after finding that the evidence before her did not prove that he was involved in the death of farmer Ellis Tjipueja (41) and an attempt to destroy Tjipueja’s remains.

Olivier was the second accused in a trial that started before Judge Shivute in February 2013. The first accused in the case, Siegfried Lewin, did not see the end of the trial with Olivier. Lewin (34) hanged himself in Windhoek on 11 January this year, a few days before Judge Shivute was due to hand down a ruling on the admissibility of an alleged confession made by him after his arrest.

Most of the evidence heard during the trial centred around Lewin, rather than Olivier. Judge Shivute commented in her judgment yesterday that it was unfortunate that the person last seen in Tjipueja’s company, who drove Tjipueja’s bakkie after his disappearance, and who sold a cellphone belonging to Tjipueja, was no longer alive so that he could explain what happened to Tjipueja. The judge also remarked there was no doubt that Tjipueja’s life had been ended unlawfully, that he was robbed, and that the course of justice was obstructed when his body was burnt.

The question that remained unanswered, though, was who had committed those atrocities, she said.

Lewin and Olivier were accused of having murdered Tjipueja at Rietoog in the Rehoboth district during the period of 13 to 27 June 2007, and robbing Tjipueja by stealing at least N$20 000, an Isuzu bakkie and a cellphone from him. The prosecution also accused them of having tried to hinder the police’s investigation of Tjipueja’s death by setting his body on fire, threatening and influencing witnesses to keep quiet, and intimidating his wife, Isolda Tjipueja, by extorting money from her. Tjipueja disappeared after he had left their home in Windhoek on 13 June 2007.

His partly burnt remains were found in a culvert under a gravel road about 15 kilometres from Rietoog on 27 June 2007. With the upper part of his body burnt beyond recognition, his remains were identified from his shoes and a leather hat, which had his name written on it, also found at the scene.

At the start of the trial, Lewin at first indicated to the court through his defence lawyer that he had acted in self-defence when Tjipueja was killed. He quickly backtracked on that plea explanation, though, withdrawing it three days after the beginning of the trial.

Witnesses who mentioned Olivier in their testimony told the court they saw him in Lewin’s company at Rietoog during June 2007, that Olivier had a pistol in his possession, and that they saw the two men going in the direction of the place where Tjipueja’s bakkie was seen on a subsequent day.

Judge Shivute noted there was no evidence before her indicating that Tjipueja had died from a gunshot injury or that the pistol in Olivier’s possession had been used to kill him. The cause of his death could not be established, she noted.

Defence counsel Winnie Christians represented Olivier, who was released on bail after his arrest in February 2008. State aocate Palmer Kumalo prosecuted.

Source : The Namibian