FRANCISTOWN: There could be more than meets the eye in the case in which a secretary at the Attorney General's Chambers in Francistown allegedly murdered her husband.
The state is now of the assumption that 58-year-old Susan Manyathelo murdered her husband Peter Manyathelo, 68, between February 7 and 8, 2022, in Makobo village in the Central District of Botswana.
When Susan appeared in court for a bail hearing today, the prosecutor Goabaone Motlhagodi said that he did not want to belabour the issues that militate against the accused being granted bail.
Motlhagodi, however, said that the matter was very complex because there may be other people who assisted the accused to murder her husband who are still at large.
“We are, therefore, apprehensive about the accused being granted bail. There is a likelihood that the accused may tamper with our investigations and abscond from trial if she is granted bail,” Motlhagodi submitted and then called the investigating officer (IO), Detective Inspector Joseph Modipe to give reasons why the accused should not be granted bail.
Modipe told the court that Manyathelo is a resident of Shangano ward in Makobo before revealing the cloak and dagger intrigues that allegedly happened during the commission of the offence.
“The matter was reported to the police on February 8, 2022, after a car was found abandoned in the middle of the river at Borolong. Inside the car, we found a seemingly lifeless body of a male person seated at the drivers’ seat. Following our investigations, we identified the deceased as Peter Manyathelo who was later certified dead by the doctor. We suspect that the accused acted in concert with other people who are still at large...The police went to the accused’s place of residence where upon arrival, the accused gave us the keys to the rondavel where she told us the deceased was sleeping. The accused was living in the main house while her husband was staying in the rondavel,” Modipe said.
Modipe also mentioned that it appeared that the scene of the crime where the police found the deceased was staged. It appeared that the deceased was murdered somewhere and brought to where we found him to cover some peoples’ tracks.
“We carried out preliminary investigations about how the accused and deceased lived together. Upon entering the rondavel, we found a red liquid that we suspected to be blood on the floor, wall and door frame of the rondavel hence our suspicions that the accused was murdered in the rondavel before being taken to the river in Borolong as a smokescreen. Again, it appeared that the rondavel was cleaned after the deceased was murdered to conceal an offence,” Modipe stated.
He added: “We also found some sweeping mops, which had traces of a liquid that we suspected to be blood that was left on the washing line to dry hence our suspicions that the accused’s death was stage-managed. We then confronted the accused with our suspicions and told her that she might know what transpired. It also appeared that a struggle had ensued in the rondavel when the deceased was murdered. We later took what we suspect to be blood samples in the rondavel and the mops to the forensic laboratory for analysis. We are of the view that the results of the analysis might shed light on exactly what transpired when the deceased was murdered. We are of the view that the accused acted in cahoots with other people who are still at large.”
Modipe also stated that the police are apprehensive about the court granting the accused bail because her safety outside the custody of the state is not guaranteed.
“The public, especially relatives and even the accused’s children are still very angry about what happened. We, therefore, fear that anything might happen to the accused if she is granted bail. Our mandate as the police is to protect people's lives and property. We know that the accused is an employee of the government but looking at the gravity of the matter and if the outcome of the samples that we took to the laboratory for analysis is positive, the accused may be tempted to abscond from trial. We are also of the view that since the accused is originally from Zimbabwe but is now a Motswana after she was married here, she might escape to her country of origin and not attend the trial,” said Modipe.
The state is aware, Modipe noted, that the accused is presumed innocent until proven otherwise but that right is not absolute and can be curtailed when there are reasonable grounds to do so.
“...We have not yet found the tool/s that were allegedly used to commit the offence. We are also of the view that if the court is minded to grant the accused bail, it will be detrimental to our investigations because the accused may tamper with our investigations and other suspects who are still at large. We also took fingerprints from the scene of the crime,” Modipe said.
Before cross-examining the IO, Manyathelo’s attorney David Olatotse implored the court to consider critical factors – that the accused should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the likelihood of her absconding from trial – when determining whether to grant her bail or not.
Olatotse told the court that the liberty of the accused is sacrosanct, constitutionally enshrined, facts-based and should not be denied based on the fears of the IO.
Olatotse asked Modipe if he was aware that the deceased was buried last weekend and both families of the accused and deceased cooperated very well and that there was no animosity between the two families.
In response, Modipe answered in the affirmative. Also, Olatotse asked Modipe if he was present during the funeral to which Modipe answered in the negative.
Furthermore, Olatotse put it to Modipe that according to what he had told the court following his investigations, he never discovered any element of lawlessness from any member of the public in Makobo.
Olatotse said that Modipe’s apprehension about the court granting the accused bail was out of baseless fear-mongering and scepticism.
The attorney also said that Modipe was withholding crucial information to the court in order for it not to grant the accused bail.
In reply, Modipe reiterated that from what he discovered during his investigations, people living within the vicinity of the accused’s yard had mixed feelings about what happened.
At the end of the bail application hearing, Chief Magistrate Mareledi Dipate postponed the matter to February 24, 2022, for a ruling.