A Thetsane family is in shock and both husband and wife cannot forgive themselves for the brutal killing of their five-year-old daughter allegedly by their tenant almost two weeks ago.
The child was allegedly stabbed to death by 34-year-old Ntahli Chuene. Chuene was out on bail for allegedly stabbing a six-year-old girl in Maseru South West (Masowe) in 2013, and both ’Mareitumetse and her husband Tšepiso Nthunya were aware of their tenant’s bloody past.
Chuene of Matsoatlareng in Maseru handed herself to the Thetsane Police Post on 30 October, allegedly soon after killing the child in Masowe. She has since appeared in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court and she was remanded in custody until Monday next week.
Thetsane police on Monday told the Lesotho Times Chuene even produced a blood-stained Okapi knife she allegedly used to end the life of the unsuspecting soul.
According to Thetsane Police Commanding Officer, Senior Inspector Bakoena Sephula, Chuene had left him dumbfounded.
“What is shocking about this case is that Chuene is no stranger to us. We have a murder case against her before the courts which was filed sometime in 2013,” Senior Inspector Sephula said.
“In that case, she also reported herself to us after she allegedly killed the six-year-old girl in the same bushy area. The present case is strikingly similar to what happened in 2013, as the killing took place at almost the same spot.
“And in both incidents, she said the killing was an act of revenge as she had had some disputes with the children’s mothers.”
The Lesotho Times has established that Chuene was sent for psychiatric evaluation at Mohlomi Hospital after the 2013 incident. After being detained for “months”, she was released into the care of her family on condition she would be periodically brought back to the hospital for medication.
’Mareitumetse (24) said she knew about Chuene’s mental state, and also her pending murder trial, but believed she was now a changed person hence the family’s decision to accommodate her in November last year. Chuene was paying M130 per month for the single room she was occupying.
However, ’Mareitumetse denied arguing with Chuene, dismissing claims by neighbours that they had indeed quarreled after she failed to pay rent for three consecutive months. Chuene was working part-time in a certain Thetsane textile factory.
“I never argued with that woman,”Mareitumetse told the Lesotho Times on Monday this week. “In fact, two days before she killed my child, we had a meal together in my house as she would come to me asking for food. I even told her that I was taking the child to the salon the following day. We were all fine and like one big family.
“On the issue of rent, Ntahli always paid her M130 on time and before the other tenants. It is not true that we tried to chase her away for not paying rent. NO.”
Her husband, Tšepiso (27) also dismissed the rental claims, adding the neighbours had told him and his family a completely different story.
“What we heard from our neighbours is that before she disappeared with my baby, Chuene had said she was thirsty for blood. This is a practice commonly associated with Satanism so it is possible that she was possessed by evil spirits.”
Narrating events of the fateful day, ’Mareitumetse said: “I asked about the child but nobody had seen her. It was around midday and we also realised that Ntahli, who had been seen with my child earlier on, was also not around.
“I became more worried when I was informed by the other children that Ntahli had promised to buy sweets and chips for my baby and that they had left the village together. I had this feeling right there and then that Ntahli was going to kill my baby because I knew she had killed another baby two years ago.
“I was one of the first witnesses Chuene confessed to after she committed that murder in 2013.
“Although I cannot remember the exact date, Ntahli arrived at my place with stains of blood on her clothes. We knew each other because we had lived in the same village of Liphakoeng before. So when she came into my house with blood on her clothes, I had thought she was menstruating and had somehow become careless.
“I allowed her into my house and lent her my clothes. She washed her own clothes and put them on the line to dry. But while cleaning herself, Ntahli shocked me by telling me that she had just killed a young girl, who was the daughter of one of her relatives. She said she had killed the child because they had argued with the mother. I didn’t believe her until she took out a knife that she said she had used to murder the child with. The knife was in her bag and had blood on it. I wanted to run.
“When she realised I was now frightened, Ntahli grabbed her still-wet clothes, took mine off and put hers on, which were still wet. She then left my house. I rushed to Thetsane police to report the incident, but when I got there, I discovered that Ntahli had already reported the matter. I understand that after she left my house, she went straight to the police to report herself.”
’Mareitumetse said Chuene resurfaced in November 2014, seeking accommodation.
“I was shocked when she came here again in November 2014 after I had last seen her in 2013. She knocked and asked for a meal. I gave her M5 and told her never to visit my house again. But she showed up again a few days later. This time she said she had heard that one of our flats was vacant and that she needed the apartment because she had found a ‘piece job’ at the factories close to this place.
“I was hesitant to offer her the apartment at first. We even discussed the issue with my husband, but ended up accepting that she should occupy the flat. It never occurred to us that one day, we would be one of her victims and that we would pay dearly for our kindness.”
’Mareitumetse said she was the one who received a call from Thetsane police about the death of their child.
“My phone rang, but I didn’t answer it. I was afraid, and like I said, I already had this feeling that my baby had been killed by Ntahli.
“My phone was later answered by our aunt (’Maneo). The police asked her if she was ’Mareitumetse. They told her I should report to the police with any of my relatives. I didn’t go. Auntie ’Maneo went to the police on my behalf. That’s where she was informed about the murder of my baby.”
According to ’Maneo, she nearly collapsed when the police told her about the murder.
“I almost fainted when the police informed me about the child’s death.’Mareitumetse had informed me about her suspicion that Ntahli must have already killed the child, but I had dismissed this fear. I couldn’t believe her suspicion until the police confirmed it,” she said.
Tšepiso also said he could not stop blaming himself for his child’s death.
“I was phoned while I was at work, and I came home immediately. They told me what had happened and I felt guilty for allowing Ntahli to stay with us while we already knew that she was a murder suspect. She fooled us and made us believe that she was a changed person.”
The village chief, Mpiti Thetsane, told the Lesotho Times the murder had left the community shaken.
“I’m told this woman mentioned something about being thirsty for human blood. It’s shocking to find out that we could be living with people of this nature in our neighbourhood,” Chief Thetsane said.
About 300 meters from where the child was killed, the Lesotho Times found five bricklayers who said they saw Chuene with the child on the day in question.
One of the men said: “We saw them down there walking as if they were mother and child; we never suspected anything sinister.
“We only realised later when the police came back with Chuene to the crime scene that the woman had killed the child.
“We went to the scene together with the police and saw the lifeless body of the baby lying in a pool of blood. It was terrifying because we never even heard any screams for help from the child, yet we were just close by.”
The Lesotho Times further visited Mohlomi Psychiatric Hospital to find out how Chuene was released from the facility.
However, the management referred this reporter to the Director of Mental Health, a Mr Lebina, at the Ministry of Health headquarters.
Repeated efforts to reach Mr Lebina were unsuccessful, but the Lesotho Times was informed at the hospital that Chuene had been admitted at the facility even before she allegedly committed the first murder in 2013.
“She has a history of mental illness and was here before the first murder. When she came after that killing in 2013, she was released into the care of her family. I don’t know what happened afterwards but I saw her again on Friday last week when prison officers brought her for examination. I understand the prosecution team was advised to go ahead with their case against Chuene.”