Police spokesperson Esther Katongo says the man who died in police custody in Namwala District, Southern Province, was suspected to be mentally unstable.

And Katongo says one person has been arrested in connection with the murder of the deceased, identified as Sebastian Shimooko.

In an interview, Katongo explained that Shimooko was put in custody after he got violent and later died on the way to the hospital.

“The officers in Namwala had received information from a certain female person at a particular lodge in Namwala that there was a man who was chasing around a Mr Zulu, who also works at the same lodge. That same person who was being chased was found cooking outside and then this person who was believed to be mentally unstable become violent and started chasing this man. So, this person who reported the matter was a woman and she reported to police. And there was one officer who was at some point near the lodge. That officer called for reinforcement. So, when other officers came, they found this same person [Sebastian] Shimooko suspected to be mentally disturbed. That’s how the officers ordered him to jump on a police vehicle to which he obliged. He jumped on the police vehicle and was taken to the police station,” Katongo narrated.

“Then at the police station, he was detained and in the cell where he was, there were other suspects who were there facing different charges. So, now, as he was there, he didn’t complain of any illness and he didn’t have any visible injuries on the body. Later, after some time, the suspects in the cell called for the officers to say: ‘this person is unwell’ and that’s how the officers went and picked him, and as they were taking him to the hospital, he died. After he died, there was other information, which came to say that: ‘actually, before his arrest, he was injured by a certain person.’ That information had not earlier come to the police. He was injured on the head by a person whom the names I have, who had injured him with a screw driver on the head,” Katongo explained.

She said the suspect who injured Shimooko was in police custody.

“And that’s how officer started investigating the other matter of the injury, which was not brought to the attention of the police. One person was apprehended, the same person who is alleged to have injured that person before he got into the hands of the police. So, we have one person in custody.”

She added that suspects who perish in prisons should not be assumed to have died as a result of any alleged police brutality.

“But now every time when a person dies in cells, people will say ‘no, the police have killed someone.’ So, if you assault someone, if a person dies within one year, one day, then if it was an assault, it matures into murder. Even if someone has been beaten today, if that person dies within one year, one day, then the person who injured him is supposed to be arrested for murder. So, even in this case, this man was harmed using a screw driver at some point, but that information did not reach the police and at the point he was coming to the police, he fell sick in the detention,” explained Katongo.