A defence lawyer in the murder trial of six police officers, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae, has disputed accusation that Italy Setlampoloka was tortured and died during escape from lawful custody.
- Post mortem shows no bruises, scratches
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 Italy Keedirile Setlampoloka.
Originally from Mahalapye, the deceased was found dead near Gabane village, on July 30, 2009, a day after his arrest and detention at Mogoditshane Police Station.
When cross-examining a state witness Detective Inspector Elias Segokgo on Tuesday, Ngakaagae said that the post mortem reflected no evidence to prove that the deceased was tortured.
Ngakaagae also questioned why the police officers were never taken to the place where the alleged tortured took place and wondered why the place from which he allegedly escaped was never documented for future reference.
“It can only mean that there was no torture more so that it has been said that the deceased was a dangerous man who often resisted arrest,” he said.
Ngakaagae told the witness that since he said he did not know about other charges the accused were facing besides murder, the other information to him was just hearsay and that he couldn’t say if Setlampoloka was hurt before or after he escaped from custody.
“You are not aware of the other charges since you never investigated them, you have no evidence that he did not escape from custody and you cannot for sure say he was hurt before or after he escaped from custody,” he argued.
It also emerged that the receipt that Detective Inspector, Segokgo is said to have found at the crime scene was not documented as part of the state evidence.
While on the stand during his sworn evidence, Inspector Segokgo explained that he saw and collected a dry cleaning receipt within a radius of the crime scene, which bore the accused person’s name.
When cross-examined by another defence attorney Busang Manewe, Inspector Segokgo said he was not sure if the investigating officer did document the receipt as part of evidence.
Manewe questioned the witness why the receipt paper, which seemed to have crucial information, was not documented into an exhibits book, as part of the evidence.
Manewe further disputed the spot where the witness said he found the receipt saying that was shown in the exhibition book and where he said he saw and picked it were totally not corroborating.
In addition, Ngakaagae said that the receipt was of no use since there were no visible significant names noted in the receipt, and even the alleged cell number on the receipt was not known.
“No significant names in the receipt are visible and only what has been documented is that there were shoe marks and next to it was a receipt but the receipt is not even visible,” he said.
The six policemen face more charges connected to the death, including unlawful disposal of the body. The officers are alleged to have tried to dispose of the objects they used to kill Setlaampoloka and then disposed the body in order to cover their tracks.
Court papers indicate that Setlaampoloka was arrested by members of the Serious Crimes Squad in connection with a spate of armed robberies. It is alleged that he 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 accused are also facing charges of giving false information to a person employed in the public service. Only one of the six accused being Constable Gobotswang face one more charge of destroying evidence.
They have all pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Defence counsels, Manewe represents Dintwe, Ramohitshane and Gobotswang, while Ngakaagae represents Mmeleki, Khutsafalo and Ramohibidu.
The case continues in November 2015, where more witnesses are expected to take the stand.