Court upholds jail sentence

MASERU — The Court of Appeal last week confirmed an eight-year jail sentence imposed on a police officer who was convicted of killing a suspected robber 16 years ago.

Mothobi Alexis Moholi was convicted and sentenced to eight years in jail by the High Court for fatally shooting Thabiso Shao at Crocodile Inn in Butha-Buthe on July 1, 1995.

Moholi had then appealed against the conviction and sentence.

In a judgment delivered last Wednesday Court of Appeal judge Justice Lionel Melunsky dismissed Moholi’s appeal.

He said the crown had proved its case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Melunsky said a sentence of eight years imprisonment was in fact lenient and that Moholi should consider himself fortunate.

Moholi was charged with another policeman, who was discharged before the case was concluded in the High Court.

According to the crown, Moholi and other two policemen Troopers Mpasi and Hlaele went out to search for Shao who was suspected to have committed robbery in Butha-Buthe.

Moholi was armed with an SRL rifle and Mpasi had a pistol while the third policeman was not armed.

According to the judgment the trio eventually found the suspect outside Crocodile Inn. He was walking towards the policemen.

As Shao passed them one of the policemen pointed him out to his colleagues.

Hlaele said while he was speaking with one man who appeared to have been in the company of Shao he heard a gunshot.

He then saw that Shao had fallen down on his face and Moholi was carrying a rifle was a few metres away from Shao.

Hlaele and Mpasi took Shao to hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The two police officers then proceeded to Butha-Buthe charge office where they made a report.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the crown witnesses had given credible evidence while the appellant’s evidence on the other hand was clearly untrue in various aspects.

Justice Melunsky said the version of the appellant which was untrue had been contradicted by four crown witnesses who had no motive to implicate him.

“His assertion that he was stabbed by the deceased (Shao) was a figment of his imagination,” he said.

Moholi’s account of how the deceased was shot was so improbable that it could not be possibly true and it was correctly rejected as false by the High Court.

The judge said the appellant was not attacked by the deceased and his life was not in danger at any stage.

“It was unnecessary for him to shoot the deceased, and the facts clearly establish that he had the intention to kill the deceased,” he said.

“The crown therefore has proved the appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

“Very little was said to persuade this court that the sentence imposed by the court was unreasonably harsh. If anything, a sentence of eight years imprisonment, in the circumstances of this case, was lenient and the appellant can, perhaps consider himself fortunate,” Justice Melunsky said.

“It is ordered that the appeal is dismissed.”

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