Killer cops plead self-defence in Nteso murder
TWO police officers accused of murdering Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) auditor, Thibello Nteso, have told the High Court that they shot him in self-defence.
Police Constables Moeketsi Dlamini and Monaheng ‘Musi also said they were “shattered” after learning he had died from the gunshot wounds.
The duo said this when they took the stand on Friday before Justice Moroke Mokhesi to give their evidence regarding the fateful night of 6 February 2020 when they shot and killed Mr Nteso.
Led by their lawyer, Advocate Lebohang Ramakhula, they claimed that Mr Nteso had shot at them first and they only fired back in self-defence.
Their testimony was however, disputed by crown counsel, Adv Naki Nku, who put it to them that they had intentionally murdered Mr Nteso.
Dlamini and ‘Musi are facing charges of murdering Mr Nteso near the residence of then Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa on 6 February 2017.
The two Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) Special Operations Unit (SOU) officers face an additional charge of malicious damage to property after they allegedly damaging the deceased’s vehicle.
It is the state case that Dlamini and ’Musi were on guard duty at the home of the then commissioner Letsoepa in Maseru West on 6 February 2017 when they allegedly shot and killed Mr Nteso.
He was shot once in the hip area and the same bullet also penetrated the other leg.
The constables claimed they had suspected a plot to attack the former police commissioner after they noticed a firearm-holder in the late Mr Nteso’s car which was parked near Mr Letsoepa’s residence.
They fired shots at Mr Nteso’s vehicle at about 9pm that night to stop him as he was driving away from the residence of an unidentified senior LEC staffer who lived near the former police commissioner. Mr Nteso was taken to the Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital where he died upon arrival.
They were initially charged alongside Superintendent Tlali Phatela and Senior Inspector Thaele Ramajoe.
The duo was accused of ordering the cover-up of the murder by tampering with the crime scene but they were acquitted in March this year. This after the court ruled that there was not enough evidence linking them to the crime.
It is alleged that Mr Nteso was at the LEC staffer’s residence to work on a forensic audit report. A few days after the shooting, the deceased’s younger brother, Tankiso Nteso, told the Lesotho Times that his brother had confided in him that he had been handling a big case of embezzlement of funds from LEC coffers involving more than M170 million.
Giving evidence on Friday, ‘Musi said they shot at Mr Nteso to stop him from fleeing so that they could arrest him.
“We had no intention of killing him (Nteso) but to arrest him,” ‘Musi said.
“We shot at his car in order to stop it. We tried several times to reason with him to step away from the car but instead he shot at us. We shot back in retaliation because he had now become a threat to us.
“I was shocked and hurt when I learnt that he had passed away. I never had any intention to end anybody’s life.
“Sir Moeketsi (Dlamini) was standing on the other side of the road while I was at the gate. We continuously shouted at the deceased to step away from his car because it was under arrest but he shouted back and said his car was not under arrest and then he fired a shot.
“I fired back while running for cover. The car was moving away from the gate while I continued to shoot at it until he fell from the car onto the tarred road with his arms stretched forward as a sign of surrender. His gun was besides his waist and I took it and put it in my pocket.”
‘Musi contradicted himself at some point when he said that Mr Nteso was standing between the open door on the driver’s side and the seat when the shooting incident occurred. He said he did not recall Mr Nteso getting into the car.
“It was dark and drizzling. I was only able to see the deceased when he opened the car door because the light from the car focused on him. That was when we asked him to step away from the car because it was under arrest and instead, he fired while standing there. I did not see whether he eventually got into the car because I ran for cover.”
Dlamini echoed similar sentiments when giving his testimony.
‘Musi’s contradicting statements came after Adv Nku bombarded him with several questions and statements suggesting that they intentionally murdered Mr Nteso.
“Why didn’t you ask for clamps in order to stop the car from moving before the deceased even got back into it since you had arrested the car? Does it make sense that you shot at a vehicle with the kind of rifle (AK47) you had? Can you call it arresting when you shoot at a person with such a rifle?
“The pathologist said that if you shoot a person with such a rifle, he goes into shock because those rifles punch big holes in the body and therefore caused him to lose a lot of blood.
“I put it to you that by the time you called for assistance he (Nteso) was already dead. It is not true that he was still able to communicate with you. In shooting the deceased the way you did, you wanted to end his life and damage his property,” Adv Nku charged.
However, ‘Musi insisted that they had acted in self-defence. He said it was not true that Mr Nteso died on the spot as he was still communicating with them while lying on the ground before assistance arrived. He said although there is no specific section of the law which the car had broken, it posed a security threat to the area.
The proceedings began in the morning and ended in the afternoon. When the trial resumes on 4 November 2020, the state and defence counsels will make their closing addresses. Thereafter, Justice Mokhesi is expected to deliver judgement.