Presence of cop throws out Eksteen confession

Windhoek-The presence of a senior police officer during the recording of a confession from a murder suspect by a magistrate at Keetmanshoop caused the confession to be declared inadmissible in the High Court at Windhoek Correctional Facility yesterday.

Murder suspect Willem Freddy Eksteen, 20, disputed a warning statement, a confession he made on on September 24, 2014 to a senior police officer and the plea he made before the magistrate. He is accused of murdering Janetta Babiep, with whom he was in a romantic relationship and had a child during the period September 21 to 22, 2014 near Aroab.

While details of what happened that night remain sketchy, as only Eksteen and the deceased were in the room when she died, he claims she committed suicide by hanging herself up with a nylon rope from the ceiling of their room.

Judge Dinah Usiku said the fact that Chief Inspector Kauhanda was present during the recording of the confession was highly irregular and already created the impression of undue influence.

It is a requirement that in order for a confession to be admitted in evidence it must have been made, freely and voluntarily and without any undue influence. It is common cause that from the time of the accused's arrest on the alleged murder charge, Chief Inspector Kauhanda had been contacted and informed about the possible involvement of the accused already. In fact, the chief inspector's presence during the alleged confession would in itself instil fear in the mind of the accused and that would impact on the voluntariness or otherwise of the confession, she stated.

She further asserted that it was never explained why it was necessary for the chief inspector to sit in and thereby follow the recording of the alleged confession: I am of the view that the alleged confession by the accused cannot be said to have been free and voluntary under the circumstances and it can therefore not be ruled admissible in evidence.

With regard to the warning statement taken down by Warrant Officer Taliaard, the investigating officer in the matter, the judge said Taliaard conceded that he did not fully explain the accused's rights prior to him taking the warning statement.

It therefore follows that accused would not have been able to make an informed decision before the statement was taken after his arrest, the judge found and added that the warning statement was therefore inadmissible, as well.

However, the Section 119 plea in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act recorded by the presiding magistrate at Keetmanshoop on September 24, 2014, where Eksteen pleaded guilty to the charge of murder was admitted into evidence by Judge Usiku. According to her, the magistrate had duly explained the rights of Eksteen to him before taking his plea.

A section 119 plea is one where an accused indicates to the magistrate what he will plead and his choice of legal representation and for the prosecutor-general to decide on the charge(s) and in which court he will be tried.

Eksteen is represented by Milton Engelbrecht on the ticket of legal aid. State Advocate Felicitas Sikerete-Vendura is appearing on behalf of the State. The case continues today. Eksteen is out on a warning.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia