“The hand that was helping you was indeed the hand that did the damage.”
This statement about acquitted murder accused Azaan Madisia was part of the testimony of the father of Shanon Wasserfall, who disappeared at Walvis Bay in April 2020, during a presentence hearing in the Windhoek High Court on Wednesday.
In testimony that was emotionally charged and interrupted by tears at times, Wasserfall’s father, Tega Matheus, told judge Christie Liebenberg that Madisia deceived him for six months while his daughter was missing, telling him that she did not know where Wasserfall was while supposedly helping him in his search for his child.
The 21-year-old Wasserfall disappeared on 10 April 2020, after a visit to Madisia’s flat at Walvis Bay.
She was missing for six months before her skeletal remains were found on 6 October 2020, buried in a shallow grave near the harbour town’s Dunes Mall.
Madisia (31) was arrested in connection with Wasserfall’s death the day after that discovery, and her brother Steven Mulundu (25) was arrested on the same charges a month later.
During their trial before judge Christie Liebenberg, Madisia told the court that Wasserfall died accidentally in her flat, after she had hit her head against a wall when she fell over a bed. Madisia said Wasserfall fell after she (Madisia) had pushed her while the two of them were involved in a physical altercation.
Madisia and Mulundu admitted that they took Wasserfall’s body out of the flat and transported her to a place where they buried her among dunes near Dunes Mall.
In a judgement delivered on Tuesday, Liebenberg acquitted both Madisia and Mulundu of murder, after finding that the state did not prove Madisia had an intention to kill Wasserfall when she pushed her. He also found that the evidence before him did not show Madisia should have foreseen the possibility that Wasserfall could be killed when she pushed her away from herself, adding that her actions could not be found to have been negligent either.
The two siblings did not get off scot-free, however, with Liebenberg convicting them of defeating or obstructing the course of justice because of their attempt to hide Wasserfall’s death by burying her body.
Testifying on Wednesday, Matheus said he had sleepless nights during the six months when he did not know where his daughter was.
During that time, Madisia said Wasserfall had left her flat on 10 April 2020 and never returned.
In his testimony, Matheus said his daughter, who was called ‘Darlikie’ at home, had been buried without her relatives being present.
“We received back a skeleton without flesh. I had to identify her by her tooth,” he remarked.
While the chapter regarding his daughter’s death would be closed in court, he and his family will remain with an emptiness because of her death, he said.
Madisia and Mulundu both elected not to testify in mitigation of sentence.
On a request from Madisia, her defence lawyer, Albert Titus, read a letter written by her to the court.
“No one deserves grace, but we all crave for forgiveness,” the letter started.
It continued with Madisia describing Wasserfall as “an awesome soul”, before she apologised to Wasserfall’s son, who was about 16 months old when his mother died, and her family.
“I’m sorry for not owning up to my mistake,” Madisia wrote, addressing Wasserfall’s son. “I pray you will one day find a way to forgive me.”
Turning to Wasserfall’s family, she wrote: “Your forgiveness one day will mean so much to me. I am truly sorry.”
In closing arguments, Titus conceded that it was aggravating that Madisia and Mulundu not only attempted to defeat the course of justice, but managed to do so by burying Wasserfall’s body. Their actions made it impossible to later determine the cause of Wasserfall’s death, he noted.
Titus said it was unavoidable that Madisia would receive a term of imprisonment.
He proposed that she be sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for defeating or obstructing the court of justice, and two jail terms of one year each on two counts of fraud, involving false insurance claims that she made, on which she admitted guilt at the start of her trial.
Mulundu’s lawyer, Tanya Klazen, proposed that he be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, of which one year is suspended for a period of five years.
On behalf of the state, deputy prosecutor general Henry Muhongo suggested a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment for both Madisia and Mulundu on the charge of defeating or obstructing the course of justice. He agreed with Titus’ proposed sentences on the two fraud counts.
Liebenberg postponed the sentencing to 13 June.
Madisia and Mulundu have both been held in custody since their arrests.