WINDHOEK: Two members of the Namibian Police Force NamPoland a Keetmanshoop resident charged with the death of a police detainee in April 2007, were found not guilty in the Windhoek High Court on Wednesday.
The two female police officers, Lodwika Galand and Hendrina Nghivelwa, were initially each charged with culpable homicide for allegedly acting carelessly and negligently while they were on duty when the late Noel Calvin Thompson was assaulted in a police holding cell.
The two police officers were discharged on this count by presiding High Court judge Nate Ndauendapo after the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that they acted negligently and carelessly when the late Thompson was assaulted on that fateful day, resulting in his death.
Charles Vries, a Keetmanshoop resident and a former detainee at the Keetmanshoop Police Station who faced a charge of murder in connection with Thompson’s death, was also found not guilty.
“… As female members of the Namibian Police Force NamPol), it was not their duty to conduct searches on the body of the late Thompson, the male deceased person. It was also not their duty to make visits to the police holding cell where the deceased person was kept.
Therefore, the two female police officers cannot be found guilty on this charge. As a result, they are both discharged on this count,” explained the judge as he set the police officers free.
With regards to Vries, the judge said the Keetmanshoop resident cannot be found guilty on the charge of murder because Gert Hendrik Titsol, a police officer who was on duty that day, had acted negligently and carelessly when he did not thoroughly search the late Thompson, resulting in the deceased person entering a police holding cell with a knife hidden in one of his socks.
“Vries admitted in court that he was involved in a physical fight with the late Thompson shortly after the deceased person was brought by the police into a holding cell where he was kept. He Vriesfurther admitted that he had kicked the deceased person several times while acting in self-defence when the deceased person attacked him with a knife he had in his possession,” said the judge.
Judge Ndauendapo was of the opinion that in this case, the late Thompson was the aggressor in the attack.
He said Vries screamed loudly for help during the attack on him, but the police officer on duty that day “did not come to his rescue”.
“Vries did not exceed the legal boundaries of self-defence when he kicked and inflicted bodily injuries on the late Thompson because he was only repelling unlawful and life-threatening knife attacks by the deceased person. Therefore, he cannot be found guilty on the charge of murder,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Titsol was not so lucky as he was the only one found guilty in connection with Thompson’s death.
He was found guilty on a charge of culpable homicide.
According to the judge, Titsol had in addition to neglecting to search Thompson also failed to make regular visits to the police holding cells as required by NamPol’s operational guidelines.
“The conduct of this police officer was really negligent that day. Instead of taking the deceased person to hospital for further medical attention, he took him home. His negligent conduct, as a result, caused the deceased to die,” said the judge as he convicted Titsol.
Despite Titsol being found guilty on the charge of culpable homicide, he was again released on a warning.
He returns to court on 19 September this year for submissions before sentencing.
In the matter, the late Thompson died shortly after his release from police custody on 01 April 2007.
Evidence presented during the trial had it that Vries, who shared a cell at the Keetmanshoop Police Station with the late Thompson, allegedly beat the latter during a fight in their holding cell.
It is reported that Thomson died six hours after his arrest on a charge of domestic violence.
He was detained at the Keetmanshoop Police Station the night before his death, after his wife and other members of his family had asked the police to remove him from the house where he was allegedly causing some disturbance while in a drunken state.
A post-mortem report on his death indicated that he had suffered seven fractured ribs, a ruptured liver and multiple bruises to his head.
At the time of Thompson’ death, his family members accused the police officers of beating him to death, a claim the police officers have rejected in court.
Keetmanshoop Police Station Commander James Nderura and another police officer, Christie Ndjede, who were also earlier implicated in the death of Thompson, were both acquitted as there was no prima facie evidence presented by the State linking them to the case.
Mese Tjituri defended Vries, while Christie Mostert represented Galand and Nghivelwa.
Mostert is also the defence lawyer for the remaining police officer, Titsol.