Tšepong accused of negligence in Nteso’s death

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Mohalenyane Phakela

THE slain Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) internal auditor, Thibello Nteso, could still be alive had Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (Tšepong) urgently given him medical attention when he was brought to the hospital in a critical condition.

This was said yesterday by Police Sergeant Lebohang Ralitau while giving testimony during the trial of four police officers accused of murdering Mr Nteso on 6 February 2017.  Sergeant Ralitau said it took about 40 minutes for Mr Nteso to receive medical attention.

The four officers are Police Constable (PC) Moeketsi Dlamini (38), PC Monaheng ‘Musi (30), Superintendent Tlala Phatela (52) and Senior Inspector Thaele Ramajoe (45).

The four officers first appeared in court on 12 January 2018 to face charges of murdering Mr Nteso near the residence of former police commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa, on 6 February 2017.

They also face an additional charge of malicious damage to property for allegedly damaging the deceased’s vehicle.

It is the state case that Dlamini and ’Musi were on guard duty at the home of the then Police Commissioner, Letsoepa, in Maseru West on 6 February, 2017 when they allegedly shot and killed Mr Nteso.

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 the LEC corporate secretary who lives near the former police commissioner.

The other two suspects in the murder case, Inspector Ramajoe and Superintendent Phatela, allegedly ordered the cover-up of the murder by tampering with the crime scene.

It is alleged that Mr Nteso was at the corporate secretary’s residence to work on a forensic audit report.   A few days after the shooting, the deceased’s younger brother, Tankiso Nteso, 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.

The five-day trial, before High Court judge Moroke Mokhesi, began on Monday and ends tomorrow.

Speaking as the fifth crown witness, Sergeant Ralitau said he was on duty at the police headquarters in Maseru when he was called to the scene of the shootout in Maseru West. He said after offering first aid to Mr Nteso, they ferried him to Tšepong and he believed that the deceased’s life could have been saved had the hospital staff immediately attended to him upon arrival at the hospital.

“While on duty at the Police Headquarters, I was called by the third accused (Phatela) to attend to a shootout at ComPol’s (commissioner of police) place in Maseru West on 6 February 2017,” Sergeant Ralitau told the court.

“I went there with three other police officers and upon our arrival we noticed a body lying near the centre of the road. I got the gloves and tried to give him first aid and that is when I learned he still had a pulse. I then ordered the police officers I came with together with those we found at the scene to assist in loading the injured person onto the van we came in and we then rushed the person to Tšepong. It was raining that day.

“Upon arrival at Tšepong, it took us about 20 to 30 minutes to get the nurses to attend to our patient. When three nurses eventually came, they debated for about five to 10 minutes as to whether or not our patient was still alive before calling the doctor to check. By this time the deceased was still lying in the back of our van in the rain. We were told the doctor was attending someone else and would attend to us immediately thereafter. He came about 5 to 10 minutes later.

“The doctor examined our patient using a stethoscope and then said that the person had died 20 minutes earlier. I was then made to fill forms and also to pay for his medical services before being ordered to take the deceased to Lesotho Funeral Services by the doctor.”

Sergeant Ralitau said that he was the officer in charge at the Police Headquarters on that day when he got a call from one Sergeant Tamako that there was a suspicious maroon Mercedes Benz which was parked near commissioner of police’s gate where the latter was on duty as a guard. He said he then went to check the situation and he indeed found the maroon two-door Mercedes Benz parked near commissioner of police’s place.

“I inspected the vehicle and saw a bunch of keys on the side pocket as well as a gun holster on the mat below the steering wheel. I had to rush back to the office as I had left it unattended but I passed through the RCTS (a vehicle theft detection and counter robbery crime unit within the Lesotho Mounted Police Services) to report the matter and discuss how the vehicle could be moved. There I found PC Sekhonyana who told me his superior had gone to central charge office.

“Five minutes after my arrival at police headquarters, I got a call from Supt Phatela (one of the accused) ordering me to rush to commissioner of police’s place where there had been a shooting incident. I ordered three officers who were on duty, Sergeant Noka, PC Mosokela and PC Kotoane to get guns and together we rushed to the scene and that is when we came across a body lying on the road which we took to Tšepong,” he said.

Meanwhile, PC Lethaha and Detective Lance Sergeant Seeko also took the stand as the seventh and eighth prosecution witnesses. They appeared in their capacity as the officers who examined the crime scene and the deceased’s car. The two officers work in the Serious Crimes Unit at Pitso Ground Police Station.

PC Lethaha said that he found seven bullet shells at the scene while Mr Nteso’s body had four holes on the thighs.

“We were welcomed at the crime scene by Senior Superintendent Letsie who explained that Mr Nteso had been taken to Lesotho Funeral Services. When we examined the crime scene we discovered a pool of blood about 25 paces (steps) from the commissioner of police’s yard. Near the blood was a 9mm pistol bullet shell. About 10 paces from the blood were four AK47 bullet shells.

“About 60 paces from the blood was a maroon two-door Mercedes Benz bearing the registration 300 NTE FS. I examined the vehicle and noticed two holes on the driver’s door and another one behind the driver’s door. On the rear-view bumper and bonnet there were eight holes. I could not inspect the interior because there was not enough light.

“From there we went to Lesotho Funeral Services where we examined the body. The right thigh had a small hole on the outer part and an open one on the inner side. Similarly, the left thigh had two holes one on the inside and another on the outer part. The following morning at around 6.30am I went back to the scene with Senior Inspector Kheleli and we found two more AK47 shells but these ones were on the left side of the road compared to the four from the previous day which were on the right side. I took in all the seven shells as evidence and submitted to ballistics department.”

For his part, Detective Lance Sergeant Seeko said that he found same bullet holes on the exterior of the maroon Mercedes Benz which belonged to Mr Nteso but more holes on the clothing which was inside the car.

“Inside the car I observed a lot of blood on the driver’s seat as well as on the mat between the driver’s seat and steering wheel. On the mat there was also a bullet which I believed was from a 9mm as well as a gun holster. There was also a bullet hole on the dashboard near the radio and gear-lever.

“On the passenger seat there was a blue LEC jacket which had eight holes on the back, one on the left shoulder and three on the right arm. Inside the jacket had four holes. Below the jacket was a blue jersey which had six holes on the right arm. I took the jacket, jersey, dead bullet and gun holster as evidence and upon arriving at Pitso Ground Police Station, Detective Inspector Motanya handed over to me a 9mm auto pistol with the serial number 32de501982 as part of evidence which I submitted to ballistics.”

The exhibits were shown to the court and presented as part of the prosecution’s evidence.

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