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Acquittal ends knife-murder trial – The Namibian

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GUSTAV Pienaar embraced the court interpreter next to him in the dock and fell to the floor in the Windhoek High Court on Friday after hearing he was acquitted on a charge of murder and two other counts following three years in jail.

Pienaar (40), who was prosecuted on a murder charge over the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend three years ago, was found not guilty after judge Christie Liebenberg concluded the state did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was guilty on charges of murder, defeating or obstructing the course of justice, and assault by threat.

The judge came to that conclusion after finding that the prosecution’s case against Pienaar on each of the charges was based on the evidence of a single witness, whose testimony Liebenberg found to have been unreliable.

Pienaar was charged with murdering his girlfriend, Christina Cloete (33), in Windhoek by stabbing her in the neck with a knife on 8 May 2018.

He denied guilt on the charges, and claimed Cloete was stabbed when one of her friends, with whom she had spent the day drinking at a bar, tried to stab him after he had fetched Cloete from the drinking place.

The friend who had been drinking with Cloete, Dina Smith, was, except for Pienaar, the only alleged eyewitness to the stabbing that claimed Cloete’s life.

Pienaar told the court after he had fetched Cloete from a shebeen he was waiting for a customer who had indicated interest in buying a knife from him, when Smith came running towards him and Cloete with a stone in her hand.

Smith dropped the stone before she reached them, and when she got to him she and Cloete started scuffling with him, Pienaar recounted.

He said Smith managed to take the knife from him, and while he was trying to get it back from her she stabbed Cloete in the neck.

Cloete’s jugular vein was cut when she was stabbed. She bled to death at the scene.

Pienaar also testified that in August 2018, Smith arrived in a drunken condition at the Wanaheda Police Station, where he was held in custody.

Smith wanted to lay a charge against someone, but because she was under the influence of alcohol police officers told her to sit down and sober up first, the court heard.

While she was at the police station, Smith walked to the holding cells, where she made a scene and shouted that she, and not Pienaar, had stabbed Cloete, two fellow detainees in the cells testified during the trial.

One of the other detainees further told the court he met Smith again at a shebeen in 2019, and she then told him again she had stabbed Cloete accidentally.

The judge commented that Smith was not impressive as a witness, and her narrative implicating Pienaar did not create the impression that she was truthful.

Although Pienaar’s version of the incident was “suspect in some respect” the state did not prove it was false beyond reasonable doubt, the judge found.

State advocate Marthino Olivier prosecuted.

Pienaar handled his own defence during most of the trial, after refusing to be represented by defence lawyers provided to him by the Directorate of Legal Aid.

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