Thabo Meli v The Queen – Case Summary

Thabo Meli v The Queen

Privy Council (Basutoland)

Citations: [1954] 1 WLR 228.


The appellants plotted to kill the victim. They took him to a hut and struck him over the head. This appeared to kill him, but in fact he was still alive. The appellants put the victim’s body at the bottom of a cliff to make it look like an accident. The victim died of exposure.


The appellants appealed their convictions for murder. This was because there was no coincidence of actus reus and mens rea. The actus reus, they argued, was the act of placing the victim at the bottom of the cliff – that is what killed him. At that time, the appellants did not have the mens rea of intention to kill or cause GBH. This was because they thought the victim was already dead.


The Privy Council upheld the convictions for murder. The killing could not be divided into separate transactions in the way the appellants suggested. The attack at the hut and the abandonment of the victim at the hill were part of one ‘ongoing’ actus reus. It was enough that the appellants had the requisite mens rea at some point during this ongoing actus reus.

This Case is Authority For…

Where an actus reus is ongoing, the prosecution merely need to prove that the defendant had the necessary mens rea at some point during that process.