by Michael Lindemann
May 16, 1997
CNI News has reported extensively on the controversy surrounding an alleged "UFO crash" said to have occurred in the southern African kingdom of Lesotho on September 15, 1995. We first covered this story as possibly legitimate in the January 1, 1997 edition of CNI News, then followed in our January 16, 1997 edition with a second long report which cast doubt on the case. In these reports, primary attention was focused on alleged secret documents describing the incident, and a disreputable character named James van Greunen who had distributed these documents to German researchers Michael Hesemann, Joachim Koch and Andreas von Retyi.
We concluded our January 16 report with these words: "CNI News must regard the alleged Lesotho 'documents' as highly dubious, perhaps most interesting as a study in disinformation. Only on-site investigation by reputable researchers will be able to establish whether or not this case has merit. Inasmuch as both [Michael] Hesemann and [Andreas] von Retyi claim plans to continue the investigation, CNI News will report any new developments."
Hesemann subsequently did travel to Lesotho and attempted to locate persons named in the "secret documents" who supposedly worked in law enforcement or government positions in Lesotho. Failing to find any of those people, he next tried to locate anyone who claimed to remember witnessing the UFO event of September 15, 1995. Failing that as well, and after noting further inconsistencies and contradictions in the documented claims, Hesemann filed a report (printed in the April 16 edition of CNI News) denouncing the case as a complete hoax.
However, CNI News has now learned other information which suggests that the case should not be dismissed quite yet.
In the latest (May/June 1997) edition of UFO Magazine (U.S.), African correspondent Mike Kawitzky reports a completely independent effort to locate some of persons named in the "secret documents." Kawitzky, himself not stationed in Lesotho, enlisted help from one Frik Groebbelaar, who runs a ranch near the Lesotho border. Greobbelaar in turn sent researchers Alex Denholm and "E.J.," along with a guide and translator named Manello, into the region around Leribe and Lejone, and the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, where the incident reportedly occurred.
The upshot of Kawitzky's report is that the case, while doubtful, deserves further inquiry. A potentially significant "Incident Report Book" covering the period of mid-September, 1995 at the Leribe police station was inexplicably missing. A "Sergeant Thabo" [or Thobo] named in the documents was not located, but the name might be a mistake, as "Thabo" is a first name, and there WAS a "Sergeant Tholo" at the Leribe station during the time in question. This man has not yet been located.
The crash was alleged to have occurred on land belonging to "Peter Lachasa," who supposedly first reported the incident. Hesemann asserts that no one in the Leribe/Lejone area knew of any such person. However, this might be incorrect. "Lachasa," or more probably "Lechesa," is again a first name, not a last name. Denholm and E.J. learned from a police lieutenant at the Leribe station that there is a farmer -- who is also a local chief -- in the Lejone area named Lechesa Letuka Nkheo. They did not have time to track this man down.
Denholm and E.J. implied that, when asked about the incident, many police officials seemed to suffer profound lapses of memory. Summarizing the results of their initial three day investigation, they commented that "we felt that most people we spoke to in the police were lying to us or covering something up." They also said they intend to return to Lesotho, better equipped and with more time to work, to continue the investigation.
Following our April 16 publication of Michael Hesemann's report, CNI News received a long response from German researchers Alexander Stein and Andreas von Retyi, who argue that the case is far from closed. Unlike Hesemann and the Denholm team, Stein and von Retyi have not yet visited Lesotho, but they have communicated with many individuals in the region by phone and mail, and they are planning their own expedition for later this year. Meanwhile, they offer further reasons to stay open-minded on the case, excerpted here from their longer report.
"We have neither reached any final conclusion nor claimed that the documents in question are genuine," Stein and von Retyi write. "However, we have discovered a couple of stunning details and facts; we have [found] situations and events that prove there is a serious background to this case." Among their findings:
A strange luminous object evidently was seen in the sky by many witnesses the night of the alleged crash. "Our inquiry regarding unusual sightings on September 15, 1995, was forwarded by the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), a renowned astronomical institution, to Cederberg Observatory," Stein and von Retyi explain. "Mr. Bill Hollenbach, associate of Cederberg, [said] there was a very bright object that streaked across the skies over southern Africa on September 15, 1995. According to Hollenbach, it was witnessed by thousands of people. However, the South African government is not willing to release any data on that object. Why, if only a bright meteor?"
Some of the people named in the documents but not located by researcher Michael Hesemann may indeed exist as claimed. "Hesemann contends that there is neither a Constable Nandi nor an Abe Lochwela of the Lesotho government. However, [Mr. Stein] made a call to the Leribe Police Department and was told that a Constable Nandi exists. Regarding Mr. Abe Lochwela, Mr. von Retyi made a call to the government of Lesotho and asked for the man. He was told that Mr. Abe Lochwela could be reached the next day between 8 a.m. and 12 [noon] (this is on tape)." Von Retyi says, however, that when he called again, he was told there was no person named Lochwela. Understandably, he suspects some deception.
Stein and von Retyi think that Hesemann is wrong in claiming that the Lesotho Ministry of Defense is closed at night and thus could not have responded quickly to the reported UFO crash, as indicated in the documents. "This is simply not true and also not to be expected," they insist. "Mr. Stein called the Lesotho Ministry of Defence on a Sunday night, 11.00 p.m. (the day of the incident was a Friday). By the way, Mr. Stein called the number of Abe Lochwela. The phone rang only once and someone answered immediately... We believe it reasonable to suppose that if the Department of Defence is not closed on a Sunday night, it was also not closed on that certain Friday night," they argue.
Stein and von Retyi see many other loose ends and promising leads in this case, and they have no intention of giving up their investigation. "Instead, we are in the planning stage of a very thorough on-site investigation at several locations in South Africa and Lesotho, where we intend to... carry out detailed research into every aspect of the matter," they told CNI News.
We will continue to report new developments in this case as they become available.
Original file name: CNI - Lesotho redux
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