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Police officer cleared of murder

Nat Molomo


MASERU — A police detective who fatally shot a suspected burglar who was attacking him with an axe left the High Court a free man on Thursday.

In fact, the judge praised him for his action.

The court heard how Trooper Maphephe Pitiri, 47, pumped four bullets into Jubile Pholoana on July 22 1997 at the Botha-Bothe taxi rank after catching him breaking into a vehicle parked at the terminus.

Pitiri, who was on duty in the company of fellow policemen, confronted Pholoana.

The court heard that Pholoana attacked the officers and hit Pitiri on the chest with an axe.

The policeman fell into a nearby furrow and then fired a warning shot but Pholoana continued to advance towards him.

He then shot Pholoana four times.

The suspect died later that day.

Pitiri, who was pleading self-defence, was commended for his action as he was discharged by Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi. 

“It is unfortunate somebody died, but you behaved like a good policeman,” Justice Monaphathi said, much to the relief of the policeman.

“The whole episode was very unfortunate because you only intervened when a crime was being committed after an alarm was raised.

“You gallantly faced a criminal who was committing an offence and who assaulted you with an axe.

“You were acting in self-defence when you shot four times.

“This man demonstrably persisted and held on to the axe and was intent on fighting you.”

The judge added: “What is clear is you were under threat.

“The evidence is that you were under attack.

“I became convinced that in law there is self-defence against such threats.

“I don’t see how you would have avoided this threat from this gentleman.

“I don’t see what alternative you had other than using that gun against your assailant.”

Both the crown and defence said they did not know why the case had taken this long to conclude despite the preliminary investigations having been completed in December 1999.

Approached for comment, Pitiri, who was being congratulated by relatives and his senior officers, said: “I’m relieved now that the case is over.

“It has caused so much stress, not only to me but also to members of my family.”

Advocate Peleha Joala prosecuted while Advocate Motiea Teele represented the accused.

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