The Masambuka family in Machinga has been looking for some kind of closure since their son McDonald, 22, who was living with albinism, was murdered 13 months ago, but they cannot access his bones for burial.
The family claims officers at Machinga Police Station have stopped picking their calls when they seek the whereabouts of the deceased’s eight bones.
Machinga Police Station does not know where the bones were returned to after an autopsy, but a lawyer handling the case has told Nation on Sunday that the bones are being kept at the High Court in Zomba until trial on the matter is completed.
Machinga Police Station spokesperson Davie Sulumba confirmed in a recent interview that police could not trace the bones.
“To be honest with you, we don’t have Masambuka’s bones here at Machinga Police. This issue is now out of hand. The bones are nowhere to be seen and we cannot find them,” he said.
Sulumba’s counterpart at the Eastern Region Police headquarters in Zomba, Joseph Sauka, also said they do not know where the bones are.
He said the bones were supposed to be kept either by police—who are handling the case—or by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. But the ministry says the bones are being kept at the High Court, a claim which we could not independently verify.
But in an interview last Tuesday, pathologist Dr Charles Dzamalala said the bones were taken by former Machinga Police Station officer-in-charge Jonathan Pambano, who is now at Zomba Police Station.
When contacted, Pambano confirmed receiving the eight bones from Dzamalala, which he said he took to Machinga Police Station.
“It is true that Dr Dzamalala released the bones on the same day and I took them to Machinga Police. But I don’t know who is keeping them since I was transferred to Zomba Police. However, I do not see a story to publish here, just leave this issue,” he said.
But responding to a questionnaire on Thursday, senior deputy chief State advocate Steven Kayuni claimed the bones are in the High Court custody as part of evidential value for the State’s case.
Said Kayuni: “Our criminal justice system dictates that processes such as disposal of an exhibited artifact can only be done at the end of trial and on directions of the trial court.
But the Masambuka family is still haunted by their son’s death; hence they want to collect the bones for burial.
When we visited the family at Duwamaka Village, T/A Nkoola in Machinga, about 24 kilometres south of Ntaja Trading Centre, it was evident that McDonald’s death still troubles them.
The deceased’s father—Adaki White Masambuka—said in an interview that his family is not sleeping in their house.
Instead, he said, they sleep McDonald’s grave, which is in a grass fence about seven metres away. outside the house to guard
The father said the family is awaiting burial of the remaining eight bones.
The family, living about 400 metres from other houses in the village, fears that someone might come and exhume the charred remains of McDonald, who was buried without legs and hands.
The father said the death of “his only reliable son” has left the family in misery, with more questions than answers. There were three children in the family: the oldest son from Masambuka senior’s previous relationship is in police custody in connection with McDonald’s death and the last born, an 11-year old boy, who shared the same mother with the deceased.
The elder Masambuka fails to understand why police are not releasing the bones for burial, and why the case is dragging.
He claimed that Machinga Police Station has not been willing to assist when the family inquires about the bones.
“We feel there was something fishy with the remaining eight bones of [McDonald]. Police stopped even picking our phone calls when we try to inquire the whereabouts of the bones. I believe this is happening because we are voiceless poor people,” he said, while sobbing.
Twenty-one suspects, including a police officer, a physician, a Catholic priest and the deceased’s half-brother were arrested in connection with the boy’s tragic death.
Nine suspects were acquitted, leaving 12, including Mlombodzi Catholic Parish priest Father Thomas Muhosha and 11 others still answering different charges.