‘Killing was self defence’

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MASERU — The murder trial of a police officer accused of shooting a suspected armed robber 14 years ago, continued in the Lesotho High Court last week.
Trooper Mothobi Moholi — who was based at Joel’s Drift Police Post in Butha-Buthe at the time of the murder — was in the dock on Tuesday and Wednesday for the killing of Thabiso Shao at Crocodile Inn on the night of July1, 1995.
Moholi had applied for discharge on November 10, arguing there was no prima facie case against him.
However on November 16, High Court Judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa had dismissed his application with Moholi — who was being represented by Advocate Mosoeunyane Masiphole — appearing before Justice Moiloa.
Moholi told the court how he shot in self-defence after the now-deceased had repeatedly charged at him with a pocket knife.
“We were at Crocodile Inn, investigating a robbery that had occurred in Butha-Buthe, together with fellow troopers, Tšeliso Hlaele and Mpasi.  Hlaele and Mpasi then went into one of the bars at the inn, leaving me outside,” said Moholi.
He said Shao and two friends had then come out of the inn, clutching some beer bottles.
“Thabiso Shao and two other men emerged from a private bar holding some quarts of Black Label beer. I knew the deceased because we were living in the same village, in Butha-Buthe. I had known him from August, 1993 when I had started working at Butha-Buthe Police Station. I had arrested the deceased for several petty crimes,” he said.
Moholi said because his partners were taking too long to return, he had decided on confronting Shao, by himself.
“My colleagues had taken too long in the bar and I decided to run after Shao. I told him there were things that I needed to talk to him about. He asked me what those things were and I told him they were in connection with a robbery he was alleged to have committed. We were about 10 to 15 paces from the inn’s entrance,” he said.
Shao had then told him he wanted to urinate and clutching the suspect’s shoulder, they had moved away from the inn — into the shadows — said Moholi.
“He had just finished urinating when I felt him tense and I became aware he was up to something. Immediately, I saw a knife flashing in my face; I blocked his blow with my left shoulder, getting cut in the process,” Moholi told the court.
“I realised I couldn’t avoid his blow and I took a step backward. I pushed him with the muzzle of my service firearm. He grabbed the gun and attempted to stab me again but he missed.
“I then kicked and punched him to the ground, as I’m trained in martial arts. I cocked the gun after realising my life was in danger, as I had been injured in the shoulder.”
Moholi said the suspect tried to stab him four times before he opened fire.
“I didn’t aim where to shoot; I just fired.”
His colleagues had then come out looking for him after hearing the shots, Moholi added.
“One of my colleagues asked someone to take us to hospital, but when we arrived, Shao was pronounced dead. We reported the incident at the Butha-Buthe Police Station, where we found Sergeant Mokhele (Now Senior Inspector) who instructed that I be taken back to hospital,” he said.
Mothobi explained he could not say where, exactly, he had shot the deceased as he had been locked in a life-and-death battle with the knife-wielding Shao.
When it was put to him by crown counsel Sefako Seema, that he had in fact, shot a fleeing Shao in the back, Mothobi maintained the suspect had been attacking him when he shot him in self defence. 
“It is a lie; it is not true the deceased and his companions had run away. I don’t know how the knife on exhibit got the blue paint because it had blood stains and I don’t recognise this gun (on exhibit) as this one seems to have been repaired. The sling has been changed and the parts have also been changed,” he said.
The case continues in the same court on January 28, next year.

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