C of A
(CRI) No.6 of 1989
LESOTHO COURT OF APPEAL
appellant John Ralengana was convicted in the High Court of armed
robbery, and was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He
agtainst the conviction. Originally two other persons were joined
with him as accused numbers 2 and 3, but they were both
the one during and the other at the end of the trial.
raised by the appellant on appeal is his identification as one of the
robbers, when a sum of between M30,000 and M40,000
was taken from the
Blue Mountain Inn at Teyateyaneng on 3 July 1988.
principal eye witness is Marai Retimeletsoe, who is also the one from
whom the money was taken. In the course of his duties
manager, he was cashing up in the office after midnight, cash having
been brought in from various points of sale.
According to him a man
entered hurriedly, pointing a gun at him. Another man also entered
holding a butcher's knife. Both men had
white cloths across the lower
halves of their faces. The gunman Marai identified as the appellant.
He said that he was wearing
a white sporty hat, a blue lumberjacket
with a checked lining, blue jeans and white tackies. He was described
as tall and slender,
with a dark brown complexion, and was said to be
recognisable by that and by that part of his face which was not
Marai said that he had known him since 1978.
that he focused his attention on the gunman, and only glanced at the
other robber who was holding the knife to his side.
neither describe him, save to say that he was of average height, nor
say what clothes he was wearing.
conceded that he was "in a state of shock," surprised, and
in fear of his life. But, he added, "I managed to
that was happening because everything that I saw was putting my life
gunman demanded money. Marai pointed to the locked safe. The gunman
demanded that he produce the keys, which he did, after which
opened the safe. The money was then taken, in two bags marked
respectively "Bottle store 1" and with a M on it, and
"Petty Cash", also with a M on it. These two bags were
later identified by the witness when they were shown to him in
possession of the police.
robbers then left. After a while the witness heard a gun shot, the
roaring of a car's engtine, and a woman's scream.
officer Raleake of the R.L.M.P. described how, a day or two after the
robbery, he accompanied the appellant, who was then
in custody, to
the latter's home. The appellant asked his wife to bring the money he
had given to her. She fetched a screwdriver
with which she unscrewed
the back portion of a speaker. Inside were two white bags, one marked
"Petty Cash" and the other
"Bottle Store". Each
had a M on it. These were the bags later recognized by Marai. Inside
them was a sum of more than
witness 'Mateboho Lebakeng, to whom I shall return, said that the two
bags found looked like the ones that had been used
at the hotel.
witness Rebecca Hlokoane, who worked with the books and the money,
also identified the two marked
saying that the writing on them had been placed there by the manager,
Mr. Lee. She added that both the bags were in the hotel
on 3 January
1988, but had disappeared by the 4th.
evidence the appellant had a very different version. He said that at
his house the police opened his briefcase, where
they found money
amounting to some M3,6000. This he said he was keeping in order to
pay tax on his cars. The police then asked
for the other money, and
he said he kept it in the speaker. He then unscrewed the speaker. In
it was some M8,000 in two bags. He
told the police he got it from his
taxi business and from his flats. But his bags, he said, unlike the
hotels bags, had no writing
on them. The striking thing is that this
version of the finding of some of the money, which differed markedly
from that of the
warrant officer, was never put to him.
evidence as to the markings on the bags was strongly incriminatory,
and I find it quite astonishing that the denial of this
important point was not put. The clear impression I have is that the
appellant was making up his defence as he went
along. In addition I
agree with the comment of the trial judge that it is improbable that
he would keep so much cash under the
proverbial mattress when he had
three bank accounts with the three major banks in Lesotho.
to the evidence of Ms Lebakeng. She worked as a receptionist at the
Blue Mountain Inn and knew the
although she did not know his name. She says that on the night in
question the appellant arrived at the hotel at about
7 pm. She spoke
to him, passing on a message that a lady friend of his was already
that he wore a blue lumber jacket with a checked lining, blue jeans
and white tackies. Later in the evening she saw the
still on the premises.
the evening his dress did not change. At a stage a number of people
came running out. One of them was the appellant.
He was holding a
gun, and "had covered his face with a cloth." When she
stood up in surprise he fired a shot upwards.
She screamed. One of
the escaping party was holding two bags. She then went to the office
to find the place in disarry. There was
a butcher's knife on the
appellant denied that he was dressed as described by the two
witnesses mentioned. He said that he was wearing a white jacket,
fawn shirt, trousers between fawn and white, and black shoes. He
denied owning a "sporty" hat. More generally he denied
being at the Blue Mountain Inn on 3 January 1988 at all.
the defence is that Ms Lebakeng was not merely mistaken but actually
lieing. I say this because she had ample opportunity
to observe his
dress at a stage when there was no cause for alarm. Her observation
of the gunman's clothing was not confined to
seeing him when he ran
out. The learned trial judge found her to be a reliable and credible
witness. I see no reason for differing
view. It was put to her that it was very improbable that anyone would
have behaved as she said the appellant had behaved, risking
identification from a person who knew him, and who had seen his dress
earlier in the evening. She did not argue with
saying simply, in answer to the question. "I certainly agree
with you that no sensible person would do things
you say accused I
did," that, "I agree with you." Criminals often do
very silly things.
appellant it was contended that the various witnesses had colluded,
and that the very similar descriptions of the gunman's
two witnesses goes to show this. The fact that Ms Lebakeng was unable
to describe the former 3rd accused in any detail
does not necessarily
carry the matter further. Rather, if there had been collusion one
might have expected more perfect evidence.
I do not think that the
record affords evidence of collusion.
is also raised that the clothes described by the witnesses were not
found when the appellant was arrested. But, nor was
a gun found. The
appellant had ample opportunity to rid himself of incriminating
items, other than, of course, the money.
learned judge described Marai as a forgetful person who must be
corroborated in all respects. However, he found that there was
sufficient corroboration, and that the appellant's evidence was so
improbable that it could not be treated as reasonably possibly
I agree fully
learned judge's reasoning. The evidence concerning the bank bags is,
in my opinion, quite damning.
result the appeal is dismissed.
at Maseru this 27th day of July 1990.
appellant: Mr. T. Monaphathi
respondent: Mr. G. S. Mdhluli
African Law (AfricanLII)
Ghana Law (GhaLII)
Laws of South Africa (Legislation)
Lesotho Law (LesLII)
Liberian Law (LiberLII)
Malawian Law (MalawiLII)
Namibian Law (NamibLII)
Nigerian Law (NigeriaLII)
Sierra Leone Law (SierraLII)
South African Law (SAFLII)
Seychelles Law (SeyLII)
Swaziland Law (SwaziLII)
Tanzania Law (TanzLII)
Ugandan Law (ULII)
Zambian Law (ZamLII)
Zimbabwean Law (ZimLII)
Commonwealth Countries' Law
LII of India
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