Two police officers were expected to bring in a vehicle they had found loaded with suspected stolen goats, but they never arrived at the Mareetsane police station in the Ngaka Modiri Molema district in the North West on Monday evening.
When they could not be reached on their cellphones and a police radio, the last thing their colleagues expected was the discovery of a burnt-out police vehicle and two charred bodies inside.
The gruesome discovery was made in the bushes around Mosita, about 80km from Mareetsane on Tuesday. While DNA test results were still to be conducted to identify the two bodies, the officers’ names were circulated on social media, with their colleagues expressing how hurt they were on WhatsApp.
A multipronged operation by the police, who sprung to action soon after the two went missing, bore fruit about 12 hours later when the torched vehicle and burnt bodies were found. Five suspects were arrested for the alleged murders of the two officers in the early hours of Wednesday in Logageng village, about 35km from Mosita.
Identified as Constable Simon Ngakaemang Ntsekeletsa (50) and Sergeant Mojalefa Heratius Molete (42), the two left their station in Mareetsane village, south of Mahikeng driven by the police’s mandate to “serve and protect” as they set out for a patrol.
According to Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso, the Hawks spokesperson in the North West, the pair came across a vehicle loaded with suspected stolen goats at about 9pm on Monday.
“However, the officers never arrived at the station and they could not be reached on both their cellphones or the police radio. A manhunt was immediately launched.”
The discovery of blood stains on the tarred road in Mareetsane area and two police badges found at different spots raised the alarm and led to an intense search operation for the missing officers.
“Further investigations led the team to a burnt-out state vehicle wherein the bodies of the deceased police officers were discovered. The team followed all the leads and worked tirelessly until they traced and arrested the five suspects who were allegedly found in possession of a 9mm pistol taken from the slain police officers,” Rikhotso said.
Head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, applauded the multidisciplinary team consisting of the serious organised crime investigation team, the police’s detective services, tactical response team and members of the local criminal records for the swift arrests and recovery of a police firearm.
“We certainly hope that the families of our fallen police officers will find comfort in the arrest of the suspects and look forward to successful prosecution on these criminal acts,” Lebeya said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, was quoted as saying: “An attack on the police is an attack on the state. This is why we will leave no stone unturned and will utilise all resources at our disposal to ensure those who commit such heinous acts against our officers are found and face the full night of the law.”
The suspects are expected to make their first appearance at Ganyesa Magistrates’ Court on Friday on charges of murder, malicious damage to property and possession of stolen firearm.