Six Police officers who are on trial for the murder an armed robbery suspect, Italy Setlampoloka seem to be on their way to freedom. The six, together with their family members and friends left court in a jubilant mood on Friday after their attorneys, Busang Manewe and Kgosietsile Ngakaagae argued that they had no case to answer.
State Prosecutor Dumezweni Marapo had on Thursday withdrawn evidence of Unopa Makhombe who had claimed to have been present when the six officers strangled Setlampoloka to death before dumping him in the bushes and disguising the death as suicide.
Makhombe who had been playing hard to get since the case started, took the stand late last year and gave his account of events. However, he would then always have excuses to avoid court when he had to be cross-examined by Ngakaagae and Manewe. A warrant of arrest was issued in his name early last week, but he could not be found as he moved from his known address. This led to his evidence being withdrawn.
Immediately after the last witness being investigating officer Mosalagae Moseki had been cross examined, Manewe and Ngakaagae filed an application pleading that their clients have no case to answer and should be discharged and acquitted.
Manewe argued that there was no evidence linking the officers to the murder. “It should be clear if all the six acted in concert and the role of each detailed. It is clear that he was in good health while in custody and escaped on the same day while in Gabane and found dead the following day,” he said.
Manewe said even Moseki admitted that they did not know anything about a white Nissan double cab one of the witnesses had said they saw around where Setlampoloka was found dead. He also argued that there was nothing linking Setlampoloka to the Isuzu double cab that was being used by the officers on the day, as there was no blood stains or anything.
“The attempt to link suspects through exhibits has failed as exhibits are missing. Even if they were here they would not change the case.
The case was the most badly handled in respect of chain of exhibits. It was extra ordinarily chaotic. Moseki told court he last saw the exhibits 10 years ago. They were handed to different
Ngakaagae reiterated that their clients had no case to answer as their roles are not detailed. He said even the Nissan alleged to have been seen at the seen was nowhere to be found and none of the officers was seen in the car. He said the case was speculative with no basis.
The six police officers, Detective Assistant Superintendent Thuso Dintwe, Sub Inspector Ranto Mmeleki, Constable Tebogo Khutsafalo, Constable Kabo Ramohibidu, Constable Michael Ramohitshane, and Constable Patrick Gobotswang, are alleged to have killed Setlampoloka.
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. The officers maintained that Setlampoloka fled from their custody in Gabane where he was to take them to his accomplices in the robberies.
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.
Justice Leatile Dambe will deliver a ruling on June 21, 2018 to determine whether the officers have a case to answer or not.