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Police officers guilty of Nteso murder

 

Mohalenyane Phakela

TWO members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s (LMPS) Special Operations Unit (SOU), have been found guilty of the 6 February 2017 murder of Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) auditor, Thibello Nteso.

High Court Judge Moroke Mokhesi on Thursday also found them guilty of malicious damage of property after they damaged the deceased’s vehicle by shooting at it.

The two are Police Constables Moeketsi Dlamini and Monaheng ‘Musi. Shortly after Justice Mokhesi pronounced the guilty verdict, the duo was whisked away to the Maseru Central Correctional Institution by prison staff.

They will appear before the same judge tomorrow for sentencing.

“Having dealt with the merits and demerits of both crown and the accused persons’ submissions, I am justified in concluding as follows: both accused are guilty of murder without extenuating circumstances,” Justice Mokhesi ruled.

“Both accused are guilty as charged for maliciously damaging property.  The accused’s bail ends here.”

Justice Mokhesi had initially planned to deliver judgement on 7 December 2020 but he was forced to defer it after Crown Counsel Adv ‘Naki Nku asked for postponement on grounds that the prosecution had come across new evidence which had initially been concealed by one of the witnesses.

Adv Nku did not say what the new evidence was or name the witness who had allegedly concealed it.

“There is new evidence that has surfaced which had been suppressed before. One of the witnesses who testified in this trial had been told to withhold some parts of the evidence which have only come to light now.

“In the interests of justice, I pray that the judgement be deferred. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not know about this evidence and I only got to know about it last Friday. I am going to learn more about this evidence. I will make a substantive application regarding this new information latest by Thursday (today),” Adv Nku submitted.

Her submission provoked a furious reaction from Justice Mokhesi who blasted the prosecution for abusing its power to reopen cases.

He questioned why the prosecution had to wait until after he had written his judgement to bring new evidence.

Defence lawyer, Adv Lebohang Ramakhula, also said he was puzzled by the prosecution’s insistence on submitting new evidence which he had not been alerted to before.

Nevertheless, Justice Mokhesi postponed judgement.

But on Thursday, Adv Nku told Justice Mokhesi that the state no longer wished to submit the new evidence. She said the change of heart was due to the fact that all parties, particularly the victims, were now anxious for the verdict in the long-drawn out case.

This cleared the way for the judge to deliver the judgement which turned out to be a guilty verdict.

Dlamini and ‘Musi were initially charged alongside Superintendent Tlali Phatela and Senior Inspector Thaele Ramajoe who allegedly ordered the cover-up of the murder by tampering with the crime scene. However, Inspector Ramajoe and Supt Phatela were acquitted the charges in March this year after the court ruled that there was not enough evidence linking them to the crime.

It was the state’s case that the duo was on guard duty at the Maseru West home of then Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa when they shot Mr Nteso on 6 February 2017.

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 a senior LEC officer who lives near the former police commissioner.

Mr Nteso was later pronounced dead on arrival at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital that night.

PC ‘Musi had argued that they shot at Mr Nteso in self-defence.  He said that Mr Nteso fired at him first when he was telling him to step away from his (Mr Nteso’s) car. He said they did not intend to kill Mr Nteso but merely to stop him so that they could arrest him.

However, Mr Nteso’s younger brother, Tankiso Nteso, has alleged that his brother was killed because he was working on a forensic audit report on the LEC.   A few days after the shooting, Tankiso 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.

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