THE trial of five soldiers accused of the 2012 murder of three Mafeteng civilians continued over the weekend with the High Court being treated to gory details of the dead victims’ brains oozing out of their skulls which had been fractured by gunshots.
All in all, 127 bullets were collected by the police at the Ha Motanyane, Mafeteng crime scene, the court heard.
The five accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Corporals Khauhelo Makoae and Sebilo Sebilo as well as Privates Tšepo Tlakeli and Thebe Tšepe. They are accused of the April 2012 murder of Thabang Mosole, Monyane Matsie and Pakiso Ntala Letatabe.
Their trial is before Justice Polo Banyane. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Friday, Police Inspector Setai Ntsebe took to the stand as the first witness and testified that they recovered 127 bullet shells from the crime scene a day after the alleged murders.
Inspector Ntsebe was a Police Constable in Mafeteng at the time of the alleged crimes. He said on the morning of 7 April 2012, he had received a call from his then superior, one Sergeant Lekhetla, who ordered him to report for duty as there was a report of three people who had been shot in Ha Motanyane.
He said he and then fellow Police Constables Sefika and Moripa had been tasked to investigate the case.
He said while he was at the police station gathering equipment they would need at the crime scene, he was told by the then Sergeant Masetle that there were people who had come to report that they had killed some people. It is not clear why the people were killed.
He said there were five soldiers armed with AK47 assault rifles. Among them was Captain Nyakane who he said he knew from the joint army and police operations they had participated in in Mafeteng.
“I then called my superior, Sergeant Lekhetla, to come to the office as the matter (shooting of civilians) involved soldiers. My team was already at the office and when Sergeant Lekhetla arrived and we proceeded to Ha Motanyane together with the soldiers and the Ha Motanyane area chief, Masupha Letsie,” Inspector Ntsebe said.
“Upon arrival in Ha Motanyane, we found an Uno vehicle which had off-ramped from the gravel road into the fields. This was at about 4pm and there were no people at the scene. The vehicle had many bullet holes and broken windows.
“The driver’s door was open and the dead person who appeared to have been the driver had fallen outside but his legs remained in the car. He had a gunshot wound at the back of his head and the brain had oozed out of the skull. We searched him and found nothing. Undressing him, we saw another bullet hole on the right below his shoulder blade. It seemed the bullet had exited through his ribcage in the front. His three left fingers also had gunshot wounds.
“There was another dead person on the front passenger seat. He also had an open gunshot wound on the head and his brain had also spilled outside the skull. He had another gunshot wound on the right shoulder. We also searched him and we found nothing. Blood was scattered all over the interior of the vehicle. It seemed the incident had long occurred as the blood had dried up. We found two 9mm pistol bullets on the driver’s seat.”
Inspector Ntsebe said they retrieved the two corpses and ferried them to the Mafeteng Hospital mortuary after receiving official confirmation of the deaths from a doctor at the hospital.
“We returned to the crime scene at sunrise the next day. We found the then Mafeteng District Police Commissioner, Senior Superintendent Mpota Nthako, in the company of the soldiers and villagers. We asked everybody who was there to join the search party for other two people who had been said to be missing. A few minutes later, another body was found by the villagers and soldiers lying a bit further from the vehicle. The body was lying face down with a hat in one hand as if the person had been running when he was shot. He had a gunshot wound on the back of the neck. In the front of the neck, he had an open wound. He had another bullet wound around his waist. He had other gunshot wounds on the left knee and on the fourth finger on the right hand. We then collected the corpse and loaded it into our van.
“From there we proceeded to inspect the crime scene. We found 124 AK47 bullet shells, two from a 9mm pistol and one from a General Purpose Machine Gun,” Inspector Ntsebe said before the trial was adjourned.
He will continue giving evidence when the trial resumes on 13 December 2021.