A medical investigation into the death of 49-year-old Zakaria Malata, who was suspected to have stolen 12 bags of maize in Ntcheu, has revealed that police officers had a hand in his death.
The deceased, who was a small-scale farmer and businessperson based at Senzani Trading Centre in the district, died on June 13 2016 at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre after he was found unconscious hours after being arrested.
According to information The Nation gathered, the deceased was locked up by Senzani Police Sub-station on June 8 2016 but was found unconscious the following day by an investigating police officer assigned by the station.
However, the police later left him at Ntcheu District Hospital for medical attention with a word to the clinician that he was a “drunken individual who had become unconscious due to intoxication with alcohol”, according to information contained in a forensic autopsy report conducted by pathologist Charles Dzamalala.
Two days later, the deceased’s relatives, with police permission, effected a referral from the district hospital to QECH after noting that his condition was worsening.
At QECH, a brain scan was done where the report suggested diffuse axonal injury; no focal hemorrhages before he died two days later.
Following his death, the family requested for a forensic autopsy which was conducted by Dzamalala to establish the exact cause of his death.
In his report dated July 11 2016, Dzamalala said Malata’s death was unnatural emanating from suffocation.
He said no poison substance was detected from the sample extracts from Malata’s body, but the body had remarkable fresh injuries in different tissues and parts.
Most significant was an apparent fracture-dislocation of the left wrist joint with other injuries like bruises and scratches to the left and right upper and lower limbs, according to the report.
The report further showed that the deceased had heavily congested lungs weighing at least three times the weight of a normal person of his size.
“Death was due to respiratory failure due to severe pulmonary congestion most probably following episodes of suffocation… The traumatic injuries demonstrated in different tissues of the body further render support to this opinion,” wrote Dzamalala.
The outcome of the report has invited the wrath of the deceased’s family who have vowed to sue the police until justice is done.
Family spokesperson Lazarus Chakakala Chaziya said in an interview on Sunday now that it was clear their relation was killed, they were commencing legal proceedings against the law enforcement agency.
But National Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa said police were yet to see the forensic autopsy report, as such he could not comment on it.
“However, according to us, the affected police officers are still treated as suspects because we have not seen that report,” he said.
Three police officers, who allegedly assaulted the deceased, were immediately arrested and two of them are still on remand at Maula Prison while the third was given bail.