Killer photographer captured a decade later

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

KILLER photographer, Habofanoe Ntsie, who mysteriously fled from court and sought refuge in South Africa during his judgment reading for double murder in 2012, has been arrested and extradited back to Maseru with the help of Interpol.

Ntsie was before Justice ’Maseforo Mahase on 26 March 2012 facing murder charges.

He was accused of murdering Habaka Mahao and Souru Masupha in 2004 at Lancers’ Gap in Sehlabeng sa Thuathe, Maseru.

During the reading of his judgement, his wife claimed that her husband had fallen ill during the lunch break hence he could not return to court.  Justice Mahase immediately issued a warrant of his arrest which was countered by his lawyer, Advocate Haae Phoofolo, who handed her a purported doctor’s sick note on behalf of Ntsie.

Later, when the case resumed, Adv Phoofolo told the court that he had failed to find his client after a breakdown of communication between them. Ntsie was nonetheless convicted in absentia. The judge did not sentence him, presumably because there was no sentencing trial after his escape.

During the trial, Ntsie had argued that he shot Messrs Mahao and Masupha in self-defence. He claimed that on the fateful day the two were armed with AK-47 rifles and wanted to kill him. However, on 9 August 2012, the High Court found Ntsie guilty of double murder.

During his court appearance, Ntsie had also claimed to know who killed Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s son, Maile, in 2002, a murder case which has since gone cold.

Almost a year after his disappearance from the High Court, Mr Ntsie was arrested while attempting to buy a car in Vereeniging near Johannesburg. He was later released on M10 000 bail by the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court. He has since been in court as the extradition proceedings unfolded.

His deportation to Maseru finally got the greenlight and the photographer was brought by heavily armed Interpol and South African Police Service (SAPS) officers travelling in more than 10 cars.  He was handed over to Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) officers from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) who were already on standby to receive him at the Maseru border.

The officers then read to him his new charge of fleeing from justice and asked if he had been subjected to any torture while in transit to Lesotho. He said he understood the charges and had not been tortured.

“No, I was not tortured, and I have no injuries,” Mr Ntsie, clad in a blue cap, black jacket, black and white tea shirt and black and white sweatpants, said.

“I understand the charge levelled against me,” he said as he alighted the vehicle in front of hordes of people including immigration officers who had left their workstations to witness his arrival.

He disembarked from the vehicle with a plastic containing bread and a bottle of water. He also had a small grey duffle bag with his belongings.

Immediately afterwards, the Interpol officers removed their leg irons and the LMPS officers replaced them with theirs.

The LMPS officers then advised him to secure legal representation while taking him to the port health department where he was tested for Covid-19.

From the border, he was whisked away to the High Court by a speeding convoy of security officials.

At the court, Mr Ntsie, who looked relaxed and engaged in conversations with the officers and the media, even joked that he could no longer recognise the court premises 10 years after his last appearance.

“It’s been a good ten years and I don’t recognise anything about this place anymore. So, you mean to tell me that this is the High Court?” he asked before unleashing a loud laugh.

He then turned to the police officers and said: “These journalists are lucky, otherwise they wouldn’t be taking pictures of me like this if it were during my times”.

“I’m not sure whether you are taking these pictures for your personal use or for publication or is it that you love me,” he said with a chuckle as he trudged into the court room.

In the court room, Mr Ntsie took off his cap and sat waiting for Justice Mahase. When she walked in and the proceedings started, M Ntsie looked unbothered and took long gazes at her.

Addressing the court, Inspector Khabu Nthejane from the Special Investigations Unit said: “The accused had run away from justice while in the middle of court proceedings and that on its own is a punishable criminal offence as per Sec 87 (2) (3) of the Penal Code Act No.6 of 2010”.

“We read him his rights that he has a right to a legal representative of his choice and a right to speak if there is anything that he needs to say but warned him that whatever he said could be used against him in the court of law.”

Justice Mahase immediately remanded him in custody to allow him to find a lawyer. Once he secures one, his trial for fleeing from justice is then expected to commence. He is also expected to be sentenced for the double murder after that trial.

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