Critical evidence that is pertinent to the prosecution’s case is missing in the case in which six police officers are on trial for the murder of Italy Setlampoloka, Sunday Standard can reveal. The six police officers are facing numerous charges of murder, destroying evidence, unlawful disposal of a dead body and giving false information to a person employed in the public service.
The evidence, categorised as real exhibits, includes four tyres that were fitted on the Nissan double cab van that was used by the accused police officers when the alleged murder was committed, a white electrical cord that was allegedly used to hang Setlampoloka, shoe casts that would show the police officers’ foot prints at the scene of the murder, four pairs of shoes, tyre casts and an asthma spray. Sunday Standard can reveal that these critical exhibits, which were expected to point to the presence of the accused police officers at the scene of the murder, together with the electrical cord that was used to hang the accused, are all missing and will not be produced in court as evidence.
State prosecutor Dumisani Marapo has reportedly told the court that the crucial exhibits are missing, such that he will not be able to call key witnesses that would submit evidence related to the exhibits. Sunday Standard is also informed that the Investigating Officer who was handling the matter has since retired.
Crime scene investigators who visually examined the scene where Setlampoloka was murdered identified a portion of shoe and tyre marks that they casted with Detstone RD formula. They also observed a colourless plastic bag, a dry clean receipt and a white electric cord tied to a tree. The investigators later uplifted tyre impressions from four tyres that would be used as control casts. The four tyres were fitted on an Isuzu van with registration plates BX 07 3089.
They also uplifted control casts of four pairs of shoes and sent them to the police forensic laboratory for analysis. A forensic scientist is expected to corroborate the evidence of the crime scene investigators by stating that the foot/footwear and tyre impressions that she analysed were made by the tyres and shoes that are supposed to be produced as evidence.
Another pathologist is expected to tell the court that after examining Setlampoloka during a post mortem examination he came to the conclusion that the deceased died as a result of asphyxia through neck compression, which is consistent with manual strangulation. He will further tell the court that the deceased’s lungs showed no signs of pre-existing natural diseases.
The man who led the investigation into Setlampoloka’s murder is Detective Assistant Commissioner of Police Milton Mapange, a divisional CID Officer who, by virtue of his position, is entitled to investigate all serious offences committed within the boundaries of this country.
Brothers in Arms
The Setlampoloka murder case attracted hordes of intelligence personnel who had come to give their brothers in arms moral support. They were led by one Dzikamani Mothobi, the man who led the task force that hunted down and killed John Kalafatis execution style in 2009. Two days after the brutal execution his team received letter of congratulations from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) top brass.
The letter, dated 15th May 2009 commended the task force for “displaying unreserved patriotism and bravery during a confrontation with a hardened criminal.”
Read the letter: “The exhibition of such spirit is highly commendable. You have shown to be dependable and trustworthy soldiers.”
While the task force was later found guilty of Kalafatis’ murder and sentenced to eleven years in prison, they waltzed out of prison in 2012 after President Ian Khama guaranteed their freedom through a presidential pardon. They had only served a few months of their 11 years jail sentence.
Also present at the Setlampoloka case were members of a team of four policemen who escaped murder charges in Molepolole after Justice Zibani Makhwade acquitted them of charges arising from the death of a suspect called David Monngae. When acquitting the four, Makhwade said the police men were right in taking the necessary steps to ensure that the suspect did not escape from custody. The Setlampoloka murder case brought into sharp focus the need for establishment of an independent police Ombudsman to investigate allegation of abuse and torture levelled against police officers. In its 2011 annual report, the Ombudsman revealed that the Botswana Police Service (BPS) was fast losing credibility in the face of the public, who doubt its integrity and ability to protect them and now believe the men in uniform have moved from enforcing the law to violating it.