Suicide stalls murder trial

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MASERU — The High Court on Tuesday postponed a case in which eight police officers are facing a murder charge after a police officer who was expected to testify committed suicide.

The police officers are being accused of killing Phamong principal chief, Bereng Bereng, in Maseru eight years ago.

The prosecution says the officers chased and shot Bereng near the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre in March 2002.

The officers chased and shot Bereng after Bereng had shot a police officer near Lakeside Hotel on the same day.

The prosecution had applied to hand in incriminating statements made by the accused officers in relation to the case.

The statements are aimed at linking the eight police officers with the murder of the principal chief.

The police officers were charged with murder following an inquest which was held in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court.

The Magistrate’s Court had ruled that the eight police officers should be charged with murder in connection with Bereng’s death.

The prosecution in June asked the High Court to accept the officers’ statements which the prosecution said were submitted during the inquest with the officers’ consent.

The prosecution said such statements should be handed in as part of the prosecution’s evidence.

But the High Court ruled that the statements should not be handed in.

Instead a trial-within-a-trial was conducted to ascertain if the accused police officers agreed to hand in their statements during the inquest proceedings.

But the High Court on Tuesday postponed the trial-within-a-trial because a police officer who was supposed to testify has committed suicide.

Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, who is representing the police officers, told the Lesotho Times that the prosecutor told him and the presiding judge, Justice Thamsanqa Nomncongo, in the judge’s chambers that the prosecution could not proceed leading evidence because its witness had committed suicide.

“We are unable to proceed because Mr (Gareth) Leppan told us that the police officer who was supposed to testify has committed suicide.

“He said the prosecution had arranged to call Constable Matiase to testify but he has been informed that Matiase has committed suicide,” Mda said.

Matiase shot himself last month following a domestic dispute with his wife.

The case against the eight police officers will now be heard next year.

“The judge told us that the case should proceed on the 15th of March next year (without fail),” Mda said.

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