MASERU — A Maseru woman had her eyes gouged out allegedly by a local businessman who accused her of stealing tins of baby milk from his shop in Khubetsoana.
Lineo Makha, 25, is currently at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital after an operation to save her sight on Thursday.
Lineo was discovered on the verge of death on November 27 near Naleli Centre where she claims she was dumped after what she described as a horrific night of torture, beating and attempt on her life at the hands of the businessman.
The businessman is known to the Sunday Express but his name has been withheld because police investigations are still at an early stage.
The businessman has however vehemently denied the allegation.
“My workers caught her stealing but I didn’t gouge her eyes out,” he said when asked about the allegations.
The Sunday Express visited Lineo at the hospital on Thursday a day after her operation and managed to speak to her although she was in pain.
She was lying helplessly on her bed with her eyes covered with bandages.
Her voice was so faint that some of her relatives who had visited had to lean closer to her to hear what she was saying.
She said the excruciating pain of the wounds had given her sleepless nights and she will always be haunted by the memories of her ordeal.
Lineo said on the fateful day she and her friend had gone to a local supermarket in Khubetsoana where there were goods on sale.
They found the shop closed and decided to cross the street to a shop run by the businessman.
“While inside I saw my friend running out of the shop and I followed her,” Lineo said adding that she heard that her friend had stolen something from the shop.
She said she regrets her decision to flee after her friend bolted out of the shop.
“I did not know why I followed her so I decided to stop running. I knew I had not stolen anything from the shop,” she continued.
“I did not find any reason to run because I was not a thief.
“A boy who was chasing us caught me and took me back to the shop. I thought they were just going to question me about the stolen goods,” Lineo said.
She said her misery began around 7pm when she was locked in a small room outside the shop.
“I was kept there until late,” she said.
Midway through the narration, Makha broke down and started crying.
She said she was terrified because she thought “the man might come back and hurt me again for telling you this”.
“I am afraid that the man will come and kill me if ever he finds out that I am talking about the incident.”
When she eventually regained her composure, Lineo said it was around 10pm when the businessman allegedly bundled her into his truck and said he was taking her to Mabote Police Station.
“In the car were two women, the shop owner and the boy who had caught me earlier,” Lineo said.
But instead of being taken to the police station, Lineo said, she was taken to a small dark room where the businessman allegedly instructed his wife to search her.
“When the wife failed to get anything from her she told her husband that they should take me to the police for further interrogation but he refused.
“He started strangling me until I fell unconscious. I then heard him telling his wife that he wanted my ear.
“Then he started cutting my face. I heard his wife asking him why he was seeking to kill me so brutally. I lay still because I was afraid he would finish me off.”
Lineo said after some time she was dragged and dumped outside.
She was discovered along the road by a young boy who alerted a motorist who immediately called the police.
Her elder sister, Theresia Makha, said she became frightened when she received a call from the hospital on Friday.
“I was told that I should not wait for time to visit patients and I became more worried,” Theresia said.
The state of my sister shocked me, Theresia said.
“Blood was rolling down her cheeks and I imagined the pain my sister was going through,” said Theresia who was the first family member to see her at the hospital.
“I could not stop rolling my own eyes after I saw hers hanging out.”
However in an interview with the Sunday Express the businessman at the centre of the torture claims said he did not hurt Lineo.
He said his workers had told him that they had caught Lineo and another girl stealing baby formula milk from his shop.
“They told me that the two girls had stolen six tins of Nun (milk). They said the other girl fled but they had caught the other one and locked her in the cage outside,” he said.
He said later that night when he was taking her to the police station Lineo had jumped out of the moving truck and ran away.
“I was taking the girl to the police and we were in the van but when we were just about to reach Mabote police station she jumped out of the van.
“I tried to run after her but she disappeared.”
Asked why he did not report the matter to the police the businessman said he had not seen any need to do so because such incidents have happened in the past but the police had done nothing to help him.
Asked if he took the girl’s eyes out, the businessman said: “I did not gouge her eyes out because we separated when she jumped out of the van. It’s a lie to say that I did that. ”
Police spokesperson, Inspector Pheello Mphana, confirmed the incident but said the police were still investigating the matter.
Mphana said it was reported that Makha was found at Naleli Centre lying besides the road.
“She told many stories and therefore we will make the (necessary) investigations before we can arrest anyone,” Mphana said.
He confirmed that the woman’s eyes were gouged out of their sockets.
He said the woman told people who came to rescue her that she did not know where she was but she managed to give them information which will help in investigations.