Former army commander’s body had eleven wounds ‘caused by high-velocity military type weapons’, according to an autopsy conducted by a South African pathologist.
Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao died from eleven gunshot wounds “caused by high-velocity military type weapons”, according to a post-mortem conducted by a South African pathologist.
The autopsy was carried out on 3 July 2015 by Professor S.A. Wadee at Bloemfontein Forensic Pathology Service in the presence of several South African and Lesotho state officials but the actual “confidential post-mortem report” was compiled by Professor Gert Saayman, head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Pretoria.
The report states that Lieutenant-General Mahao’s death on 25 June 2015 was “consistent with multiple high-velocity gunshot wounds, with blood loss”. His body had 11 gunshot wounds caused by the “high-velocity military type weapons”.
Lt-Gen Mahao’s injuries were “predominantly situated on the right side of the body, with one of the projectiles (bullets) having deeply penetrated the chest structures and right lung”, says the report of which the Lesotho Times has a copy.
The report says “the wounds are of a nature in keeping with what could have been caused by projectiles fired from high-velocity military type weapons.”
“At least some of the wounds have the appearance that they were sustained after the projectile may have passed through an intermediary target,” the report says, raising the possibility that one or two of the bullets could have hit the former LDF chief in the arm first before entering his chest.
The nature of the weapons described in the report mean that Lt-Gen Mahao would not have stood a chance.
All the bullet fragments retrieved from the body during the autopsy were handed over to a South African Police Service (SAPS) Warrant Officer present during the autopsy “for sealing in an SAPS evidence bag”, the report says. Blood samples for alcohol/toxicology analysis were also extracted from the body and handed over to a SAPS forensic officer “for sealing” in another evidence bag.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the Mahao family lawyer, Advocate Haae Phoofolo (King’s Counsel) said he had “gone through” the 13-page report but declined to give any details.
“What I can only say is the post-mortem report is conclusive proof that Lieutenant-General Mahao could not have been alive when he was taken to Makoanyane Military Hospital like the LDF has been alleging.
“Judging from the wounds he sustained from high-calibre guns fired from close range, the shooting was indeed, brutal,” Adv Phoofolo said.
Mahao family spokesperson, Lehloenya Mahao, refused to comment on the autopsy report.
“I am not in a position to discuss the issue, maybe some other time, but certainly not now,” he said.
The Mahao family has nevertheless insisted in the past that Lt –General Mahao was brutally shot and killed on the spot while the LDF claims the former army commander was still alive when he was taken to the military hospital. The LDF has also previously claimed that Lt-General Mahao was killed while trying to resist arrest for allegedly masterminding a mutiny. The military further alleges he fired first, allegations furiously rejected by the former army commander’s family in past press statements.
Advocate Phoofolo said the autopsy report spoke for itself as no one would have stood a chance from a volley of bullets fired from the type of guns described in the autopsy.
The report states that Lt-Gen Mahao’s body was cleaned and “well-preserved” after he was shot by fellow LDF members near his Mokema home.
Lt-Gen Mahao’s property, the report says, was in “a commercial plastic shopping bag” next to his body during the autopsy. The property is listed as “one pair grey underpants (partially cut open), a grey/charcoal T-shirt, a light brown short-sleeved shirt with vertical stripes, a dark multi-coloured black/charcoal short-sleeved button-down pull-on jersey, an olive-coloured pair of long trousers with an elasticated waist bearing the clothing label ‘Johnson’, and a two-tone ‘Johnson’ label long-sleeved shirt, olive and cream in colour.
“The shirt, as is the case with the other items of clothing, has been extensively cut open.”
The autopsy report says “multiple injuries are externally visible” on the body which is “notably clean in keeping with the body having been previously washed”. There was “virtually no residual blood on parts of the body away from the sites of the injuries”.
The report describes in great detail the extent of the injuries and the location of the wounds on Lt-General Mahao’s upper body.
“The upper body garments all show multiple irregular defects in keeping not only with the items of clothing having been cut off or away from the body, but also probably representing penetration by one or more projectiles (bullets).
“In particular, the following material defects are noted on the ‘Johnson’ two-tone long-sleeved shirt:
- Over the right deltoid aspect is a large irregular defect measuring approximately 75mm in diameter, with irregular edges and with multiple surrounding additional irregularity torn detects varying from 2mm – 5mm in approximate diametre.
- There are multiple irregularly torn defects to the right lateral aspect of the shirt, the nature, the shape and size of which are assessed with difficulty as a result of associated and or subsequent cutting, presumably with a pair of scissors.
- On the back panel of the shirt to the right of the midline in the upper back, is an irregularity shaped defect in the material measuring approximately 10mm in diametre.
- There is no obvious evidence of soot or grease soiling, glass impregnation or blood on the items of clothing.”
The report also says there was a “large gaping oval-shaped penetrating defect” on the right arm.
It continues: “The wound has irregular edges and an irregular and variable collar of abrasion varying from 2mm to 6mm in diametre.
“Furthermore, the right upper arm displays a palpably fragmented fracture of the humerus, with distinct angulation and deformation of the upper arm and with associated shortening of the limb.
“On the upper medial aspect of the right arm, immediately distal to the axillary fold, is a large irregular gaping skin-wound measuring approximately 50mm in maximal diameter, with irregularly lacerated edges and irregular areas of abrasion surrounding the wound. There is some extrusion and eversion of subcutaneous soft and fatty tissue. The appearance is not inconsistent with an exit gunshot wound.
“On the lateral aspect of the right side of the chest (positioned approximately 30mm to the right nipple) is an oval penetrating wound measuring approximately 70x90mm, with distinct but irregular surrounding collar of abrasion, varying from 5-10mm in width. The appearance is not inconsistent with that of an entrance gunshot wound.
“On the back of the body, approximately 150mm from the midline and at the approximate level of the fifth thoracic vertebra, is an irregular penetrating skin wound with maximal diameter approximately 10mm. The wound edges are irregular and appear opposable. No surrounding collar of abrasion is noted and indistinct extrusion and eversion of subcutaneous soft tissue is seen. The overall appearance is consistent with that of an exit gunshot injury. The wound is situated approximately 146cm above the level of the right heel.
“On the right upper forehead is an irregular area of abrasion measuring approximately 45x25mm and with indistinctly visible longitudinally orientated superficial striations.
“The area above the upper lip on the right side and lower portion of the right cheek, also involving the right lateral aspect and tip of the nose, show an irregular area of abrasion with collective dimensions approximately 40x40mm and with distinct longitudinally orientated striations within the base of the wound. Smaller discrete separate areas of abrasion are visible in the immediately adjacent areas. A small superficial abrasion measuring approximately 4mm in maximal diameter is also present on the right upper eyelid.”
The report also describes the chest injuries in greater detail.
“Upon opening the skin overlying the anterior chest, an indistinctly demarcated (subcutaneous) projectile (bullet) tract could be identified extending from penetrating injuries on the right upper arm and pectoral region, across the front of the chest but without penetrating the bony chest cage.
“This wound tract extends almost horizontally across the front tissue. Haemorrhage is present where the relatively well-preserved steel core of a (bullet) projectile was identified. The externally visible contusion on the upper part of the anterior chest wall appears to be a manifestation of the subjacent tissue injuries over the upper sterna region,” the report also notes.
“The right lateral chest wall shows penetrating injury, associated with overlying skin defect. There is a large irregular defect in the chest wall overlying the lateral aspect of the body of the fifth rib which has been fractured and completely disrupted.”
According to the report, there was “moderate soft tissue injury” to the interior abdominal wall while there was “extensive disruption” of the liver tissue.
The autopsy report emerged this week as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) dispatched its mediator, South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, to meet with the government and voice the regional body’s concern over a decision by LDF Special Forces Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi to challenge in court the work of a commission convened by SADC to probe Lt-General Mahao’s death. (see story on Page 4)