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State's key witness thrown out in Setlampoloka case

MPHO MOKWAPE
Murder accused in Setlampoloka's case
Gaborone High Court Judge, Leatile Dambe yesterday threw out the testimony of Unopa Makhombe, the State's key witness in the Italy Setlampoloka murder trial.

Judge Dambe yesterday agreed with the defence to end Makhombe’s participation in the case, following the witness’ numerous failures to appear before court on scheduled dates. Makhombe was a suspect arrested with Setlampoloka in July 2009. Six police officers are charged with kidnapping, torturing and killing Setlampoloka, who was a suspect in a spate of armed robberies. Yesterday, Dambe said enough was enough. “The witness’ evidence shall be rendered irrelevant to the case. It is time we close and finish the case. It cannot be held back by one person,” said Dambe.

As the State’s key witness, Makhombe had already had damning claims that he was present when Setlampoloka was allegedly strangled to death. Makhombe said he had witnessed Setlampoloka’s body being carried off to be dumped in the bush.

Over the years that the case dragged on, the officers’ defence team comprising Kgosietsile Ngakaagae and Busang Manewe were to cross-examine Makhombe, but he proved slippery, citing ill-health.

Following his expulsion from the case and his evidence thrown out, the matter continued yesterday with another slippery witness finally taking the stand for the State.  The investigating officer, Mosalagae Moseki, who has since retired from the police service, had previously failed to appear before court on

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several occasions. Moseki’s appearance yesterday followed a warrant of arrest issued on Monday.

At the time of going to press, he was being cross-examined by the defence team.

According to the State, Setlampoloka of Mahalapye was found dead near Gabane on July 30, 2009, a day after his arrest and detention at Mogoditshane Police Station.

It was reported that Setlampoloka was arrested by members of the Serious Crimes Squad in connection with a spate of armed robberies. It is alleged that the suspect died under torture as the police tried to extract a confession from him.

The police allegedly took his body to Senamakola farmlands near Gabane where they simulated suicide by hanging his body from a tree.

The six policemen face more charges connected to the death including unlawful disposal of the body. The officers are alleged to have tried to get rid of the objects they used to kill Setlampoloka and dispose of the body in order to cover their tracks.

They are also charged with giving false information to a person employed in the public service. One of the six, Constable Gobotswang, is facing an additional charge of destroying evidence.

They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges. The case continues today.



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