How fugitive prisoner died


MASERU – Bokang Tsoako, an escapee from the Maseru Maximum Prison was fatally assaulted upon his capture on December 22, 2023 at the Ha ’Mamochochoko Orphanage in Mohalalitoe, Maseru.

Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Soatsi of the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS), who was also the head of the search team that captured Tsoako, earlier this week explained to the commission of inquiry currently underway at the prison premises how Tsoako was captured.

The Commission, chaired by High Court Judge Realeboha Mathaba, retired LCS Commissioner (LCS) Mojalefa Thulo, and lawyer and diplomat King’s Counsel (KC) Kelebone Maope, heard the finer details of how Tsoako was captured.

The Commission is investigating the incidents that led to six inmates (including Tsoako) escaping from the prison facility on December 21, 2023.

Subsequently, all of the prisoners were apprehended at different locations and on times. In the process one inmate died with another sustaining two fractured legs.

Soatsi testified this week that they were informed Tsoako was hiding in a house located in Mohalalitoe. Officers entered the house to search for him, and when he tried to flee, they apprehended him.

“The inmate came out running. The first officer threw a stick at Tsoako’s feet; it tripped him, and he fell down. Before he got up, one officer beat him with a stick. We then held him, and I twisted his arm. We then took him to the vehicle. We found a rope in the vehicle and used it to fasten his hands,” said Soatsi.

He explained that they used force to hold Tsoako down because he was attempting to flee. “They held him with force to prevent him from escaping, and some officers used sticks to overpower him,” said Soatsi.

He noted that they had no batons, so they resorted to using sticks. “In this facility, we were trained to use batons, and the way the sticks were used was similar to how we would use batons if we had them,” he said. Even in the vehicle, tensions were high.

“I was sitting with the inmate and some officers at the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser. I shielded Tsoako with my body because I realised the officers might harm him; they were eager to beat him due to the anger stemming from the mass escape,” said Soatsi.

Maope reacted to the way Tsoako was treated by the officers. “What we see is that most of the officers in the search party abandoned the inmate after offloading him from the car, while still assaulting him, leaving him to their colleagues at the facility who continued to assault him,” said Maope.

“I say you abandoned him because he was brutally assaulted; someone might say you brought him to be brutally slaughtered,” Maope added. Soatsi responded, stating that while it might appear that way, it was not their intention.

“As an officer experienced in searching for escaped inmates, my expectation was to find our superiors. My immediate senior, ASP Mokhesuoe, notified them that we had captured an inmate,” he said.

They did not expect the situation that would arise after they arrived at the institution. Upon arriving at the Maseru Central Correctional Institution (MCCI), ASP Mokhesuoe, who was part of the search party, left the inmate with Soatsi.

“He immediately left without any conversation or agreement. I realised he had passed on when we were in the passage, and I had to shield and protect the inmate,” said Soatsi.

He explained that he was taking the inmate to the gate, where the gatekeeper would escort him to the sergeant’s office for a search before readmitting him into the cells.

Along the way, Soatsi left the inmate with other officers, who then took him to the sergeant’s office, where he was further brutally assaulted. Tsoako was later taken to hospital where he was declared dead upon arrival.