Murder suspects claim torture while in police custody

MASERU — The High Court will on April 7 deliver judgment in a murder case which had become a trial-within-a-trial after suspects claimed they were tortured while in police custody.

Thabiso Letsie, 42, Toka Nkaka, 31, and Hlomelang Lebabo, now late, are being accused of murdering Utloang Moholisa sometime in August 2004.

The police found Moholisa’s body buried in a shallow grave on the banks of the Mohokare River on September 1 2004.

The police alleged that they were led to the crime scene by the accused, a charge the accused denied in court.

The defendants have accused police investigators of forcing them into pleading guilty after they were subjected to torture.

The defence counsel then asked for a trial-within-a-trial to determine whether the evidence before the court which was allegedly obtained through force would be admissible.

Last Wednesday, defence lawyer Advocate Motiea Teele told the court that his clients, who are out on bail, should be set free as they had no case to answer.

“The most important thing is that these people were assaulted.

“When William Mosili (the investigating officer) was talking to the accused, anything could have happened, including intimidation and torture,” Teele said.

“There was a clear dispute between investigators and the accused. My clients say they were assaulted but the police deny this.”

Teele said his clients never took investigators to Mohokare River and pointed to the spot where Moholisa’s body was later retrieved.

The lawyer told the court that a local headman had also allegedly testified that his home was searched and later taken to the banks of Mohokare River where he was forced to dig in search of Moholisa’s body.

“The evidence of the accused persons and the witnesses is similar in nature. The chief was fetched from his home and made to point at the spot where the body was later exhumed,” Teele said.

Teele also said his clients’ medical forms which could have proved that his clients were tortured had disappeared.

“The forms have disappeared because the investigators knew they contained crucial information.

“The police talked about the accused saying they were in pain and gave them tablets.

“Maphallela (one of the investigating officers whose first name was not revealed in court) said the accused only complained about being assaulted when they went to remand prison.

“Clearly Maphallela was not telling the truth. The medical reports have been hidden away carefully by the crown,” Teele said.

He said if the accused had freely confessed as alleged by the crown, the police would have taken them to court quickly without delay.

“The accused were kept for six days because they had been severely assaulted. The burden of proof is on the crown not the accused.

“This is a clear case whereby assault took place. The crown has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that my clients were never assaulted,” Teele said.

But crown counsel ‘Mathapelo Kanono told the court the accused had voluntarily pleaded guilty to the murder.

“The accused freely confessed to the murder.

“It would have been stupid for the police to have assaulted the accused when they had voluntarily pointed out where they had buried the deceased.”

The High Court will deliver judgment in the matter next month.

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