The retrieved call activity from a cellular number belonging to one Olefile Momphitlhi that police term as a missing person marked a watershed in court yesterday.
Investigating officer, Milton Mapenge, who was instructed by then assistant police commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe to probe into the matter of the missing Momphitlhi, was cross-examined by attorney, Martin Dingake.
He was the last witness called by the state. Yesterday, before Justice Ranier Busang, Dingake produced evidence that there was communication from Momphitlhi’s cellphone number, which led Mapenga to change his initial testimony.
Dingake provided the court with extracts of the communication from Momphitlhi’s number produced by Mascom Wireless.
The communication showed that Momphitlhi sent a text message to his brother, informing him that he would be skipping the country to neighbouring South Africa.
The attorney put it to Mapenge that the cell number was active until around November 30, 2011 at the time the details were extracted.
Mapenge initially said: “There was no call, there was no activity after the 7th when the text was sent. I saw no calls until I handed over the file”.
After the attorney showed the court the call information that Mapenge had looked through whilst conducting his investigation, the officer turned around and said, “I admit there was communication as the information suggests”.
During the investigation, Momphitlhi’s family had identified a gravesite they believed to be the one their son was buried in, which the police have since denied.
Quizzed as to who the grave was for, Mapenge said: “When I investigated the matter I was told by the social welfare people that the grave belonged to a destitute from Malawi. He had no identity. I checked with the relevant authorities and he did not appear in the system”.
“I did not enquire who reported his death, I requested for his death certificate, but it was not available. I was only given the savingram certifying his death. Many other people are buried without death certificates, hence I did not probe any further why they didn’t have the death certificate,” Mapenge testified.
Mapenge also told the court that the Molepolole police officers did nothing to trace Momphitlhi after he escaped from their custody in Old Naledi. He said it was only when he was handed the case in November that he started to trace the suspect.
“I told the then station commander who confirmed they had done little to trace him. I proceeded to report to the then officer commanding of the Molepolole area. He was not aware of the case, but promised to look into the matter,” he said.
Dingake put it to Mapenge that the police had tried everything in their power to protect the three officers who handled Momphitlhi when he was last seen.
On August 7, 2011 Momphitlhi accompanied by his brothers, Shakes and Simon Momphitlhi went to Molepolole Police Station to surrender himself.
He was suspected of an armed robbery incident that happened in Molepolole some time in 2011. Momphitlhi was detained and was later said to have escaped from police custody at the Old Naledi Police Station.
So far, Makgophe, an officer stationed with Old Naledi police, the investigating officer, the two officers who handled Momphitlhi, and his co-accused have all taken the stand to testify on what transpired on August 8, 2011.
The police claimed that Momphitlhi escaped from their custody after he took three officers to Old Naledi. They alleged that he told them, that was where they would find the car used in the robbery. According to the police when they arrived at the place, Momphitlhi fled. They have testified that they then reported the matter to Old Naledi police.
In contrast to the officers’ testimony, his co-accused told the court that whilst still at the Molepolole Police Station with Momphitlhi, they were taken in for questioning. The co-accused said that he last knew of Momphitlhi’s whereabouts when he heard screams coming from the room the officers on duty had taken him. He told the court that it was after peeping through his cell that he saw officers dragging the lifeless body of Momphitlhi into a police truck before driving off.
The case continues today at the Lobatse High Court.