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Alleged bakery boss killer sommersaults

Nat Molomo

MASERU — A man who admitted killing Astoria Bakery boss Thabo Phohleli stunned the High Court on Friday when he said he did so after the police threatened to electrocute him.

Thabang Kotelo who was accused of killing Phohleli alongside four others — Tello Mabusela, Seabata Ramohajane, Mareka Nthejane and Thabiso Sephula — has since turned state witness.

The trial however took a dramatic twist on Friday when he claimed his admission that he had participated in Phohleli’s murder was secured under duress.

Kotelo told the court that one police officer only identified as Mokole threatened to electrocute him during the interrogation at the Pitso Ground Police Station.

Kotelo said the threat to electrocute him came after he was asked about some handcuffs which were found on the deceased on September 5 last year.

“He (Mokole) did not electrocute me but he threatened to electrocute me because he appeared not to believe what I was telling him about the handcuffs,” Kotelo said.

“The threat of electrocution came as a result of Mokole not being satisfied with my answers.”

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Advocate Thulo Hoeane, Kotelo said he told the police that he had participated in the murder of Phohleli because the police officer has threatened to torture him with electrical  shock. 

“I tried to say what he wanted me to say because he threatened to electrocute me,” Kotelo said.

Earlier on Kotelo had told High Court judge Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo and two assessors that on the day that Phohleli was killed, he was in the company of Mabusela and Ramohajana.

He said he was shot and injured by Mabusela a few days after Phohleli’s murder.

Kotelo said after he was discharged from Queen Elizabeth II Hospital he was detained and interrogated by four police officers who included Mokole at the Pitso Ground Police Station.

He said although Mokole did not physically assault or torture him he made verbal threats to electrocute him.

Kotole added that although he was in a “confused mental state” and in spite of the threats of torture he still gave clear answers to the investigating officers.

“My answers to them were clear because I still remember them even today,” he said.

He however admitted that he gave some evidence to the police without being threatened with torture.

The defence team is made up of Advocates Zwelakhe Mda, Letuka Molati, Thulo Hoane and Motsamai Tlapana and is assisted by Motlatsi Nku.

The crown is led by the Director of Public Prosecutions Leaba Thetsane and Advocate Lehlanako Mofilikoane.

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