Judge refuses to separate Rittmann murder case

WINDHOEK - High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg yesterday denied an application by Rhyno Richardo du Preez, 35, to have his trial separated from that of his co-accused and former lover Rachel Elizabeth Rittmann, 47, after he admitted to killing the former's husband with her help on August 23, 2013 in Gobabis.

Du Preez basically admitted to all the allegations in the charge sheet and said he committed the dastardly deed because he was madly in love with Rachel and was prepared to do whatever she wanted for her to be happy. He said that he fell in love with Rachel after she sent him a Facebook friend request and they started a romantic relationship. He further stated he and Rachel agreed, planned and executed the killing of the deceased. They are on trial for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

According to the State, Du Preez and Rachel conspired to kill her husband, 35-year old Rudolph Henry Rittmann. It is alleged that they stabbed the late Rittmann to death at his home in Gobabis, and then drove the body in his vehicle to a secluded spot in the veldt, where they set the vehicle alight with the body of their victim inside.

According to Du Preez, he and Rachel were arrested on the morning of September 01, 2013 after sharing a bed the night before. He further admitted that he bought a packet of cable ties from a hardware store in Windhoek, before he embarked to Gobabis after receiving confirmation from Rachel that he should go and kill the deceased.

When he arrived in Gobabis, Rachel asked him to wait in a bush outside the residence she shared with the deceased, where after he entered through a gate that she left open for him.

When he arrived inside the house, he found the deceased asleep on the bed and he proceeded to tie the ankles of the deceased with the cable ties, but the deceased woke up and put up a struggle.

He then grabbed hold of the deceased and in the meantime told Rachel to fetch a knife, which he used to stab the deceased several times until he succumbed. He and Rachel then withdrew money from the bank account of the deceased, from which Rachel gave him N$1 500 and bought fuel and water before they returned to the house where they cleaned the scene of the blood, Du Preez stated. He then left her at the house and drove with the body of the deceased in the direction of Windhoek where he set the car with the body inside alight and returned to Windhoek.

After the admissions were read into the record, Ileni Gebhart, the State funded lawyer for Du Preez asked the court to separate the trials of Du Preez and Rachel who still maintains her innocence as she fears her client will be prejudiced by evidence produced at the trial.

State Advocate Marthino Olivier opposed the separation and said that not all elements of the offences were admitted. In his ruling, Judge Liebenberg said that it should be borne in mind that the mere fact that the accused persons may incriminate each other reciprocally does not create an injustice. On the contrary, it is often in the interest of justice that accused persons be tried together so that the court can have all the evidence before it, putting the court in a better position to determine the guilt and the respective degrees of each accused's blameworthiness, the judge remarked. He went on to say that Du Preez has failed to show on a balance of probabilities that he will suffer probable justice in a joint trial. In this instance, it would be in the best interest of both the accused persons if the court has all the facts before it, when finally called upon to decide their respective degrees of guilt, and what is the nature of the crime they committed.

Yesterday, two employees of Old Mutual where the deceased had investments testified that Rachel made enquiries into her husband's will and the beneficiaries of his investments just days before his murder.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia