• Police shoddy investigations sets six cops free from Setlampoloka murder charge •
“I have never seen such a badly investigated homicide case in all my life-” judge
“I can confidently say I have never come across a homicide case as badly investigated as this one”.
These were the opening lines of outgoing judge, Leatile Dambe, when she set free six police officers who had been in the dock for the past nine years facing four charges- among them, murder.
The accused police officers were charged with the murder of Italy Setlampoloka, destroying evidence, unlawful disposal of a body as well as giving false information to a person employed in the public office.
The six police officers, Detective Assistant Superintendent Thuso Dintwe, sub-Inspector Ranto Mmereki, Constables Tebogo Khutsafalo, Kabo Ramohibidu, Michael Ramhitshane and Patrick Gobotswang, had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
When delivering her ruling, Dambe said that the prosecution was required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that all the essential elements of murder were covered.
She said that in the case the prosecution brought forward 12 witnesses.
“The pathologist opined that the cause of death of Setlampoloka was through manual strangulation. He also said that the pattern of injuries were that of strangulation and external pressure on the neck and not death due to hanging as it was made to seem,” she said.
“The pathologist had also mentioned that the deceased had a fractured skull,” she continued.
The six murder accused police officers when giving their testimony had told the court that Setlampoloka had come into their custody at the Mogoditshane Police station and had left the station to show them where other suspects lived.
According to the case record, the six accused officers said that on the way Setlampoloka escaped from their custody and disappeared.
He was later found dead on the other side of the village.
“A major blow to the case was that there is no evidence that Setlampoloka was murdered in Mogoditshane as alleged by the prosecution. The state failed to put any of the accused to the scene let alone to committing the crime,” High court judge Dambe ruled.
Dambe further said that the state failed to link any of the accused to the murder of Setlampoloka.
“All attempts to scientifically link the accused failed. Another severe blow to this case was that the only eye witness who claimed to have seen the accused persons torture the deceased was expunged from the record because his evidence was never tested through cross examination,” Dambe said.
“All exhibits that could have been used in the case had disappeared and there was no proper chain of protocol in terms of custody of the exhibits hence writing off the integrity and reliably of the exhibits until such a time they are presented in court,” Dambe noted.
The six police officers have since been acquitted and discharged of the murder of Setlampoloka.
It however remains a mystery as to who killed Setlampoloka who had at the time been in police custody for an alleged string of burglaries and robberies.