As prosecutors concluded evidence in a case in which six police officers in Mzuzu are accused of having a hand in the death of Edson Msiska, who died in police custody on January 29 this year, it emerged that all CID Officers implicated each in their caution statements.
The accused , Inspector Gertrude Munkhondia, , Constable George Kamphe, Constable Victor Msoloma, , Constable Lucius Mpakeni, Constable Bertha Chavula and , Constable Joel Kapunda, were arrested on April 18 2012 and were charged with murder following police investigations into Msiska’s death. They all pleaded not guilty.
Msiska, a former Natural Resources College student, died following his arrest after he was found with property suspected to have been stolen.
At the conclusion of the state’s evidence, the High Court was supposed to rule whether the suspects have case to answer or not.
But one of the defence lawyers George Kadzipatike of Jivason and Company asked the court to be given 21 days to make a submission of “no case to answer”.
Judge Dingiswayo Madise then ordered the defence to prepare the submission and serve or share with the state.
“Thereafter the court will rule based on that submission. Meanwhile the court is adjourned,” Madise said.
The caution statements, which were read in court and tendered as part of the state’s evidence by the eighth and last witness, CID deputy director Stern Chaima show contradictory events.
The first accused Inspector Gertrude Mukhondya said in her statement she saw Kamphe, Kapunda, Mpakeni, Nsoloma and Lloyd Msiska beating the suspect.
“But after I saw this I stopped them and ordered them to continue interviewing the suspect,” Mukhondya wrote in her statement.
Fourth accused Constable Chavula said that she saw Constable Nsoloma and Constable Msiska assaulting the suspect “but Madam Mukhondya calmed the two officers so that I continue recording Edison’s statement”.
Constable Lloyd Msiska is at large.
But third accused Constable Nsoloma said when he went to office on 26th January, 2012, he saw several officers attending to different clients and there was nothing violently being used on the Edison.
“But what I know is that I injured another suspect called Isaac Kulemeka with a panga knife and he was later sutured with seven stitches. After this disgraceful act I went home and came back to the office on 30th January only to learn that Edison died on 29th January,” Nsoloma said.
Second accused George Kamphe said he did not see anyone assaulting the deceased.
Fifth accused Constable Mpakeni said he only saw Edison on 26th January when he was being recorded a statement.
“From that date onwards I never saw him and I have never assaulted him,” Mpakeni said.
Sixth accused Joel Kapunda, who arrested Edison on January 25th 2012, confirmed that Edison was in good condition when he left him in custody.
“I was not there when he was being interrogated or when his statement was being taken. From that date to January 28th I was not on duty and only learnt on 29th January that Edison had died,” Kapunda said.
But in cross examination lead defence lawyer Chris Ghambi said he had evidence the six cops were forced to write the caution statements under order from the Police hierarchy.
“Are those Police Officers in the dock senior in rank to you?And is it not a general practice in the Police that juniors also follow orders regardless of whether they are unpalatable of not” Ghambi asked.
But Chaima disputed that adding that he came to give evidence in this case and not talk about general operations of the Police.
Prosecution witness number five was Joseph Silumbu, but barely a minute in his evidence-in-chief, Ghambi objected to his taking to the stand arguing that Silumbu had been presenting during the previous hearings hence his evidence may be prejudiced.
Judge Madise overruled him saying the court will decide on the weight to attach to his evidence.
Silumbu told the court that when Police brought him with Edison’s brother Ulemu to Mzuzu CID office, the Police also brought Edison and started beating the brothers.
“They told me to wait outside and I could hear people crying,” he said.
Ulemu, who is serving a six year sentence for burglary, corroborated Silumbu’s testimony saying the six officers assaulted them in unison.
Another witness was a Police photographer, Assistant Superintendent John Mkupu, who tendered 10 photographs of Edison’ autopsy, which was done at Mzuzu Central hospital on 2nd February 2012.
And on why his photos were not dated, he told court that the he forgot to set the camera.
“I took the photos as part of my evidence,” Mkupu said.
A post-mortem by pathologist Charles Dzamalala and tendered in court, revealed that Msiska died of assault
The case is closely watched and is seen as a test case of how much ingrained impunity is there in the Malawi Police Service contrary to statutory limitations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :