MASERU — A man who confessed to killing his 81-year-old grandmother in 2007? and had been in remand prison for the past two years? has been set free by the Lesotho High Court due to lack of evidence.
Seabata Makhasane, 23, was arrested for the murder of Konosoang Makhasane on February 23 2007 and initially appeared before Qacha’s Nek magistrate Samuel Loko on April 11 2007 where he is said to have pleaded guilty.
Magistrate Loko had then referred the matter to the High Court and Makhasane — of Ha-Sekake in Qacha’s Nek — had since been awaiting trial while in custody.
The case was finally brought before High Court judge Nthomeng Majara with the first hearing taking place on December 4.
Makhasane had again pleaded guilty before making a u-turn, claiming his first confession had been made following severe torture by the police ? and that police had also promised him an acquittal should he admit killing the elderly woman.
Magistrate Loko — who is now retired — was among the witnesses who testified in the trial.
On Friday, Justice Majara set Makhasane free, accusing the police of bungling their investigations.
“The accused is set free before the court, due to lack of evidence. The police relied on the confession made by the accused. To determine whether an accused is guilty or not, is to look at the evidence furnished but there is no evidence that connects the accused to the murder,” Justice Majara said.
She pointed out the many flaws in the investigation, saying these had left her with no choice but to free the accused.
“Even where the evidence shows the crime had been committed, I do not accept his confession. The accused was not warned and cautioned about the consequence of his confession. Pointing out of the knife (murder weapon) should have been corroborated by crown counsel that he did so voluntarily but in this case, it was not. Confession of the accused should not have been admitted and the magistrate (Samuel Loko) should have inquired extensively, to find out the honesty of the accused,” she said.
The judge continued: “In law, a confession is admitted when a person has not been coerced, induced or put under duress. The defence lawyer said there was no voluntary evidence on the part of the accused.”
Justice Majara said the crown had, therefore, failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, even though there was a crime committed and a post-mortem had shown death was a result of bleeding.
“Doctor Phakoana testified that the deceased died because of over-bleeding and was killed like an animal. He also said there were no wounds on the deceased’s body. But still, the state should have proved beyond doubt that the deceased was murdered .”
Majara said Magistrate Loko’s evidence could not be admitted because he is not a sworn interpreter.
“When the accused confessed on April 11, 2007, he did not tell the magistrate that he had been promised he would not go to jail if he did so and that if he did not confess, the police were going to assault him.”
Makhasane had shown no emotion throughout his trial and after the final judgement on Friday.
His lawyer, Pheello Mokoena expressed satisfaction over the final verdict, saying it was the ‘proper judgement’ that ensured ‘innocent people don’t go to jail.’
“There should be evidence for there to be a conviction, but in this case, there was none,” he said.
Soon after being set free, Makhasane told the Sunday Express : “I feel happy; I’m satisfied. I am now going to look for a job. I’m going home today after having been in jail for the past two years.”
Lehlanako Mofilikoane represented the state.