MASERU — A man convicted of killing Astoria Bakery managing director, Thabo Phohleli, says he was forced to commit the crime by a friend.
Seabata Ramohajane made the claims during mitigation in High Court yesterday.
He told Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo that Tello Mabusela, his co-accused who has also been convicted, threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the murder.
Phohleli was killed in September 2010.
His body was found near Puthiatsana River.
Ramohajane and Mabusela were also found guilty of robbing Phohleli.
Ramohajane told the court that he did not know that Mabusela was planning to kill Phohleli when he called him on September 5, 2010.
They had met in Ha-Tsolo near Phohleli’s house, he said.
Mabusela was with Thabang Kotelo who Ramohajane said was holding a plastic bag which had the handcuffs they later used to restrain Phohleli.
Ramohajane said Mabusela told him that they were waiting for someone who owed them money.
He said it was only after Phohleli had parked at his gate that Mabusela revealed that they were going to abduct him.
“Mabusela then ordered Kotelo to give me the plastic bag he was holding,” Ramohajane said.
When he asked why he should take the plastic bag, Mabusela said he should not ask questions lest he angered him.
“I took the plastic bag because I feared him,” Ramohajane said.
He explained that Phohleli was just about to open his gate when Mabusela seized him at gunpoint and shoved him back into his car.
At that time Kotelo was already in the driver’s seat.
Ramohajane said when he hesitated Mabusela pushed him into the back of Phohleli’s vehicle.
Under cross-examination from Advocate Thulo Hoeane who is representing Mabusela, Ramohajane said he could not report the crime because Mabusela had threatened to kill him if he did.
“I could not report the crime because Mabusela had told me that if ever I revealed what happened he will kill me.”
He said he participated in the crime because he was terrified of Mabusela.
Thulo submitted that the court should consider Mabusela’s anger as extenuating circumstance. He said Mabusela was angry because Phohleli had fired his sister.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leaba Thetsane KC said the court should remember that the two had committed a brutal murder.
He said the murder was premeditated.
The court has reserved ruling on extenuation until Tuesday next week.