Murder suspect turns into crown witness

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MASERU — A 23-year-old Berea man is temporarily off the hook after the prosecution yesterday withdrew charges of murder filed against him.

Tlohang Lekhanya was charged with murder together with Thabiso Ramotaboka and Tšepo Sefele for allegedly killing a woman in Berea three years ago.

The prosecution said the trio “on or about the 4th day of September 2007 at or near Ha-Ramakoro in the district of Berea, . . . did intentionally and unlawfully kill one ‘Maholisa Masia”.

But Lekhanya yesterday got a temporary relief when the crown counsel Lechesa Mahao told the High Court that the prosecution was withdrawing charges against Lekhanya.

“We wish to withdraw charges against accused number two (Lekhanya).

“The reason is that we want to turn him into an accomplice witness.

“We are now left with accused number one and accused number three,” Mahao said.

Lekhanya has now turned into a crown witness and will testify against his two other co-accused.

This could however turn out to be temporary freedom because if he fails to testify fully against his former co-accused persons the prosecution might charge him again.

But if he testifies to the satisfaction of the court he will stand a chance to be permanently off the hook from the murder charge.

The case could not proceed against Ramotaboka and Sefele yesterday because Sefele did not have a lawyer to represent him.

Advocate Motiea Teele, who represents Ramotaboka, said if the High Court is to appoint a lawyer for Sefele it should be not a junior lawyer.

“If a counsel is appointed I suggest that it should not be a very junior counsel because this is a very serious matter,” Teele said.

“But I cannot represent him (Sefele) because it would be a conflict of interest.”

Teele also brought to the High Court’s attention that the savingram which brought the case to the High Court was not verified before signing.

The savingram showed that a Preparatory Enquiry (PE) was held in the magistrate’s court against the accused persons before the case was sent to the High Court for trial.

It was signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leaba Thetsane.

High Court Judge ‘Maseforo Mahase urged the crown counsel Mahao to advise Thetsane to verify the contents of the savingram before appending his signature.

Justice Mahase said Mahao had told the court that the savingrams in the law office had a similar format which shows that the enquiry was held even though there had been no such  enquiry.

The court heard that after a savingram is taken out of the computer system it is put before Thetsane to sign.

Justice Mahase said this was confusing because it gave the wrong impression.

But she said Mahao’s explanation clarified the confusion created by the savingrams from the DPP’s office.  

“This clarifies a lot of things because I am always under the impression that the PE was held when looking at the savingram.

“It is not the issue of having the guts to advise the DPP not to just sign but he should be advised to verify before signing,” Justice Mahase said.

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