Khetheng murder accused fights for bail
THE High Court is tomorrow expected to hear a bail application for Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, with a police officer investigating the murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng having urged Justice Semapo Peete to deny him bail.
SSP Tšukulu is the fifth person charged with murdering PC Khetheng in March last year.
The other accused are former Defence minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona, Sub Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo.
Mr Mokhosi, who is also Lesotho Congress for Democracy deputy leader, was last week released on bail and since fled to exile citing a plot to assassinate him.
PC Khetheng was reburied last month in his home district of Mokhotlong after the four officers’ arrest and interrogation by a special police investigating team yielded information on the whereabouts of his remains.
PC Khetheng’s remains had been exhumed at the Lepereng cemetery in the outskirts of Maseru, which is used to bury unclaimed corpses.
He had last been seen alive while being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016. PC Khetheng had been arrested and charged on allegations that he torched the house of his superior in Mokhotlong district where he was deployed.
PC Khetheng’s disappearance had prompted his father, Thabo Khetheng, to lodge an application before the High Court on 18 July 2016 for the police authorities to produce him dead or alive.
SSP Tšukulu’s bid to be released on bail from the Maseru Central Correctional Institute — where he is detained while awaiting trial – has faced tough opposition from police officers who are investigating the case.
During hearings held on Wednesday and Thursday, Sergeant Pakiso Thamae asserted that SSP Tšukulu would interfere with potential prosecution witnesses if he was released on bail.
He said the potential state witnesses included police officers who worked under his command at Hlotse Police Station, as well as civilian members of the community.
“I am against his release on bail,” Sgt Thamae said.
“Mr first reason is that he (SSP Tšukulu) will interfere with evidence because he knows our witnesses and they are police officers, while others are not police officers.
“Our investigations have revealed that he had already instructed our potential police officers witnesses to give false narration of the events that led to PC Khetheng’s death. He instructed them to distort the evidence.
“According to our investigations, he also threatened members of the community to give false evidence.”
He continued: “The second reason is that we have strong evidence implicating him in the offence he is charged with and he will abscond if released on bail.
“The weight of evidence we have against him is able to attract a heavy sentence on him if he is convicted.
“The third reason is that there was a public protest march in Hlotse at which members of the public clearly said they did not want to see the petitioner (SSP Tšukulu) working at Hlotse Police Station as the station commander again, following his arrest in relation to the murder.”
However, Sgt Thamae was asked by SSP Tšukulu’s lawyer, King’s Counsel Karabo Mohau, to explain how SSP Tšukulu could influence police officers when he had been placed on interdiction on 28 August 2017.
Advocate Mohau suggested to Sgt Thamae that no police officer would take any instructions from SSP Tšukulu because he was now on interdiction.
He said SSP Tšukulu would also not interfere with civilian potential witnesses because he would be staying in Maseru, not Leribe.
Advocate Mohau also queried Sgt Thamae’s sequence of events when SSP Tšukulu was arrested and detained in police custody.
This was after Sgt Thamae told the court that SSP Tšukulu was detained after being subjected to interview by investigating officers. Sgt Thamae had said SSP Tšukulu was locked up after the lunch hour.
He also said there was a detaining form that SSP Tšukulu signed for him to be locked up in police cells.
But Advocate Mohau said Sgt Thamae’s evidence was a fabrication.
“If the detention form shows that he signed it at around 9am, it would be incorrect that he was only detained after lunch that particular day.
“It can also not be correct that he was detained after lunch, if he signed the detention form at around 9am,” he said.