Arandis shooter in court

NIMT’s Eckhardt Mueller and Heimo Hellwig were gunned down by a colleague, Ernst Lichtenstrasser

Lichtenstrasser says he is innocent. “Check the background”, he says

Murder accused on a hunger strike and complains about cell conditions

Sharlien Tjambari

The Police has its murderer. A 57-year-old instructor of the Nami-bia Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) is allegedly behind the double murder on 15 April this year of the Institute’s Director, Eckhardt Mueller, and his Deputy, Heimo Hellwig.

Ernst Lichtenstrasser (57), an instructor at NIMT’s Tsumeb Campus, made a first appearance in the Swakopmund magistrate’s court yesterday morning on two murder charges. He has been in custody for more than two weeks, as the only suspect in the murders, but police investigators were reluctant to bring him before a magistrate unless all evidence is properly collected and recorded.
Mueller and Hellwig arrived at the Arandis campus of NIMT early on the morning of 15 April. Little did they know when they emerged from their vehicle they had only seconds to live. The shooter appears as Mueller and Hellwig were taking their last steps towards the front door of the Campus’ administration block.
A total of eight shots was fired from a 9mm handgun. Mueller and Hellwig died in pools of blood with fatal gunshots delivered to both victims’ lower abdomen and to the head.
The shooter seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Namibia is stunned by the shootings.
However, within days fingers were pointing to an instructor at NIMT who was not happy with his work conditions. This person, now believed to be Lichtenstrasser, had an open hatred for Mueller and Hellwig.
As police investigators probed Lichtenstrasser, they discovered illegal arms and ammunition in his possession. It resulted in his arrest and charges in terms of Namibia’s Arms & Ammunitions Act. Lichtenstrasser was brought before a magistrate at Karibib. The case was postponed and Lichtenstrasser was denied bail.
With their murder suspect now behind bars for another crime, police inves-tigators took their time to picture together the events that led to the deaths on that fateful morning at Arandis of Mueller and Hellwig. Soon Lichten-strasser was brought to the coast where investigators systematically started to construct a case against him and ensured that no detail is spared to gather and document evidence.
Efforts paid off. Yesterday morning, Lichtenstrasser emerged in handcuffs from the back of a police van at the Swakopmund magistrate’s court. He was whisked into the court building by armed police officers.
Then, as he found the opportunity within earshot of a Namib Times reporter Lichtenstrasser shouted: “I didn’t do it…check the background.”
In the dock he cuts the figure of a lonely old man, weathered by weeks of little sleep and weight loss as he was on a hunger strike since 27 April.
Lichtenstrasser appeared before magistrate Nelao Brown. The State Prose-cutor was Maria Shilongo who opposed bail. The case was remanded to 24 July for further investigation. The accused Lichtenstrasser will be given an opportunity to employ the services of a lawyer.
To the magistrate Lichtenstrasser yesterday complained about the con-ditions under which he is incarcerated. He complains about hygiene in his cell and added he prefers to be held at Arandis. Lichtenstrasser further complained about proper conditions for regular contact with his wife and daughter.
The state objected to Lichtenstrasser’s request to be held at Arandis police cells. The magistrate Brown turned down the request and ordered Lichten-strasser be held at the Walvis Bay Prison. “Arandis is where the accused also has colleagues, so it will not be in the interest of the State. You will be held at the Walvis Bay Prison, which is an appropriate holding place, for safety reasons”.

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