Murder suspect set free after 16-year court battle

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MASERU — For 16 years a murder charge hung over Lesupatsela Mafeto Maine’s head.

Maine was charged with the murder of Justice Phoka at Ha-Moji in December 1995.

But on Tuesday the 63-year-old Maine heaved a sigh of relief after the High Court finally set him free after the crown failed to provide any witnesses.

High Court judge Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo said it was sad that the case was coming to court after 16 years.

He said because the state had failed to provide any witnesses the court had no choice but to find the accused not guilty.

“It is sad that this case has to end like this. We cannot countenance the fact that the case is being brought to court after 16 years. It is sad that it has ended like this,” Justice Nomngcongo said.

The judge added that it was also sad that the aggrieved party would not find closure.

Justice Nomngcongo noted that Maine had been appearing before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court for five years since the alleged murder but there had never been any witness to present any evidence against him.

Crown counsel Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane pleaded with the court to postpone the case so that she could report to her boss, the director of public prosecutions, about the striking down of the case.

“My Lord I ask the indulgence of the court. I’m willing to proceed with the case but I haven’t found an investigator.

“I pray that there should be a postponement maybe for the last time until next week or even tomorrow (Wednesday). I really apologise my Lord,” Motinyane said.

However, Advocate Salemane Phafane KC would have none of it as he told the court that justice needed to be served.

He said his client ought to plead because he had waited for 16 years for justice to be administered.

“It is obviously clear that the crown cannot make a decision on what it wants the court to do with this case. I would not allow that to happen.

“My learned friend cannot go to the DPP to tell him what is about to happen. It would set a bad precedent. The accused would even run short of money to pay for his legal representation,” Phafane said.

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