Hospital killers escape noose

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MASERU — The Court of Appeal yesterday commuted the death sentence of two men who shot dead a man on a hospital bed after accusing him of duping them in a car sale deal.

Thabiso Kopano and Litabe Ramone were sentenced to hang by Justice Kelello Guni last year after being convicted of killing Busang Justice Rotheli as he lay on a hospital bed at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital on January 10, 2005.

The duo had also been convicted of possessing a firearm.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Kopano would now serve 25 years in jail while his employee Ramone walked away free.

The two were convicted of killing Rotheli after he sold Kopano a car before staging a hijacking to steal the same car.

Kopano escaped the noose after the Court of Appeal ruled that the deceased’s duplicity as well as his offensive remarks upon being confronted over the matter were extenuating circumstances.

“The conviction of the first appellant (Kopano) on count one is altered to read guilty of murder with extenuating circumstances,” the judge said. 

“He was therefore convicted on sufficient evidence and his appeal against that conviction cannot succeed. The sentence of death sentence imposed on the first appellant on count one is set aside and substituted therefore with a sentence of 25 years,” the judge said.

The court directed that Kopano’s charge of illegally possessing a firearm be referred to the High Court since he had never been sentenced for that crime. 

Kopano severely wounded Rotheli on December 26, 2004 as a result of bad blood between the two over the sour car sale deal. He then followed Rotheli to hospital two weeks later where he shot him point blank.

Justice Howie acquitted Ramone of both charges.

He said Ramone was in Kopano’s company at the time of the murder only on the basis of his status as an employee.

 “It follows that he ought to have been acquitted on count one (murder). The necessary consequence is that he ought to have been acquitted on count two as well. His appeal must therefore succeed on both counts,” the judge said.

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