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Blow for murder-accused sisters

Business

Staff Reporter

The High Court has dismissed an application by two murder-accused sisters Nthei and ’Maphoka Rasekoai to have access to their deceased mother’s call data records from Vodacom Lesotho (VCL).

Nthei and ’Maphoka, aged 32 and 25 respectively, are accused of fatally assaulting their mother, Martha Rasekoai, on the head using a spade in July 2022.

It is alleged they brutally killed their mother to cash in on her life cover.

They first appeared before Magistrate Thamae Thamae in January this year, charged with the murder of their mother. The high court granted them M500 bail each in February.

At the time of her untimely death, Rasekoai was working at the Ministry of Development Planning as Chief Economic Officer.

Last year, Nthei and Theko and Rasekoai families, filed an application in the High Court asking it to compel VCL to release call data records (CDRs) or telephone records of the deceased’s mobile phone dating from July 26, 2022, when she met her untimely death.

Theko and Rasekoai families are the deceased’s maternal family and in-laws, respectively.

Nthei told the court that Tuesdays were usually for management meetings at her deceased mother’s workplace, and as such, a meeting was scheduled at 7:00am on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

She said that as did each morning, she drove her mother to the traffic circle adjacent to South Line Group at Ha Thetsane in Maseru for her to take a taxi to work for the meeting.

As usual, she expected her mother to come back home from work but, out of character, she did not.

Nthei explained that she became worried and started making efforts to contact her through her mobile and to alert family and friends but to no avail.

She said it emerged from her mother’s colleagues that she never pitched up for the scheduled management meeting. Besides not being able to locate her, she said her mother’s WhatsApp displayed weird activities of her exiting groups including those of family.

When her efforts failed to yield results, she approached the Thetsane Police Station, the one proximate to where she dropped her mother to report the incident.

The police then gave her authority to approach media houses to help her assist locate her mother. She said she approached MoAfrika FM and posted on social media platforms such as Facebook.

She said she received a telephone call the following morning to go to Thetsane Police Station where she was informed that a half-naked body of a woman matching her mother’s provided description provided and further that she was found at Thetsane Industrial Area, around ‘Mabolou River.

The police, she narrated, asked them to go to the mortuary at Lesotho Funeral Services to identify the body.

They positively identified it and in their observation, the deceased did not die a natural death, and they suspected that someone could have picked her up at the bus stop and assaulted her to death.

She told the court that on that fateful day, her mother had in her possession, a cell phone, a brown handbag containing, among others, bank cards, identity cards as well as a Targus laptop bag which she used to carry her work stuff.

Nthei said her mother was disposed of the mentioned items, and that following the incident, they feared for their lives, particularly, herself as she was the one who dropped her mother at the bus stop almost every day.

She indicated that her mother’s phone was tampered with as it was still active even after her demise.

She was convinced that establishing the deceased’s mobile phone movements for July 26, 2022, and the days after, would shed the light on who the perpetrators of her gruesome death are.

This, she added, would also bring relief to the fear that the perpetrators may have access to her bank accounts, and ameliorate the anxiety and fear for the safety and protection of their lives and property as they believed the perpetrators were lurking somewhere.

She told the court that she believed that armed with her mother’s phone call, the family would be able to pursue a private investigation into the death, thereby, expediting investigations, and also that they may pursue a private criminal prosecution against the perpetrators if they were found.

Nthei prayed the court to direct VCL to release her deceased mother’s phone call records.

She also wanted the properties ranging from a cell phone Samsung A5, cash, bank cards, identity cards, and a Targus laptop bag to be handed over to her.

She said that the monetary value of the finances contained in her mother’s stolen bank cards far exceeded M25,000.

The matter was heard in September last year.

VCL opposed the application. It said it does not track or trace the cell phone movements of its customers.

It also submitted that call data records only confirm that calls were made by detailing the number initiating and receiving the call (not the content), the duration of the call, the time the call was made, the tower through which the call was initiated or received, and in respect of SMSes, messages sent or received and not its contents.

VCL also indicated that the information required by Nthei was personal.

It argued that access to personal information was only allowed to the owner of such information upon production of adequate proof of identity and to the law enforcement agencies for purposes of criminal investigation and only upon production of a court order.

It said it would be unlawful to release any personal information to any third party except the police and therefore, asked the court to dismiss Nthei’s application with costs.

The judgment was delivered on March 24, this year.

“Clearly, the First Respondent (VCL) is not in a position to provide such information. The application is dismissed with costs,” read the judgment by the high court judge, Justice Fumane ‘Malebona Khabo.

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