Family questions death of their kin in police cell

Tabitha Nyangweso mourns her son, Zedekiah Masakhwe, who died while in police custody. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]
A family has alleged foul play after a father of nine died while in police custody in Butere.

The family of Zedekiah Walter Masakhwe, 53, wants officers at Butere Police Station to explain circumstances that led to his death.

Masakhwe, from Elukhakha village in Butere sub-county, was arrested on Sunday but died at night.

The police said Masakhwe developed complications while in custody.

The former teacher reportedly injured a neighbour, who had broken into his shop at Elukhakha last Friday.

However, the said neighbour went to report an assault case at Butere Police Station, and Masakhwe was later summoned.

Masakhwe’s widow, Jane Auma, who had accompanied him to the station, said the officer handling the case asked her husband to report back on Sunday with witnesses so that he could record his statement.

On Sunday, he went back to the station with two witnesses and after interrogation, he was taken into custody.

“The police told my brother that he was a criminal before throwing him into the cell,” said Isaiah Omulama, the victim’s brother.

Auma said while at home, she received a phone call from her husband informing him that he had been locked up at the station.

She went to the station and she was informed that he could be released on a cash bail of Sh10,000.

“I came with the money but they denied him the bail even after promising to release him,” said Auma.

He was then booked for court on Monday.

According to police report, at around 10.30pm, Masakhwe started complaining of stomachache and was vomiting.

The police rushed him to Butere sub-county hospital and he was referred to Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital.

The family was only informed of the incident on Monday.

“I got a call from the OCS at around six in the morning on Monday that I was required at the station immediately,” said Auma.

The wife and her brother-in-law were taken to Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital mortuary where they found the body of their kin.

“At the hospital, we were told that the police claimed my brother had committed suicide by taking chemicals used in cattle dips,” said Mr Omulama.

The family is questioning how their kin, who was healthy at the time he was locked in custody, suddenly had stomachache and how he accessed poison in the cell as per the theory being fronted by the police.

“We don’t know if he was tortured to death. If they are saying he committed suicide, where did get the poison from in a police cell?” said Omulama posed.

The officer in charge of Directorate of Criminal Investigations at Butere Monica Onganyo confirmed that on Sunday, Masakhwe was booked for an assault offence.

The police said they could not confirm the cause of his death until a postmortem examination was done on the body.

The DCI officer did not give more information of the fateful Sunday night. 

The family is now calling for an independent investigation to establish the cause of their kin’s death.

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