Brief of Thabo Meli v. R

Brief of Thabo Meli v. R by Legum

Thabo Meli v. R [1954] 1 All ER 373

Material Facts:

The appellants took the deceased to a hut with a preconceived plot to kill him and make it look like an accident. While at the hut, they gave him beer to get him intoxicated and struck him on the head with an instrument, rendering him unconscious. Believing him to be dead from the hit in the hut, they carried him out of the hut, rolled him down a cliff, and dressed the scene to look like an accident. However, medical evidence revealed that the hit in the hut was not sufficient to have killed the deceased, and the deceased actually died from the exposure he experienced outside the hut.


Whether or not the act of striking the victim in the hut was separable from the act of leaving the victim outside the hut where he died, such that there would be no concurrence between an intention to kill and actually killing the victim in pursuance of that intention

Arguments of the Appellants:

They ought not to have been found guilty of murder because murder requires that the accused have an intention to kill (mens rea) and actually killing in pursuance of that intention (actus reus). However, at the time the deceased died (which was outside the hut and down the cliff), they had no intention to kill the victim since they believed he was dead in the hut. And at the time they intended to kill the deceased, which was inside the hut, there was no actual killing in pursuance of the intention to kill.


That it is impossible to divide up what was really one transaction in this way.

Ratio Decidendi:

In response to the appellants’ argument that their intention to kill occurred at a different time than their acts to kill in pursuance of the intention to kill, the Privy Council, per Lord Reid, said:

[It was] impossible to divide up what was really one transaction in this way. There is no doubt that the accused set out to do all these acts in order to achieve their plan and as parts of their plan; and it is much too refined a ground of judgment to say that, because they were under a misapprehension at one stage and thought that their guilty purpose and been achieved before in fact it was achieved, therefore they are to escape the penalties of the law