The High Court in Mzuzu has started hearing a case in which six police officers are accused of having a hand in the death of Edson Msiska, who died in police custody on January 29 this year.
The officers, Gertrude Munkhondia, George Kamphe, Victor Msoloma, Lucius Mpakeni, Bertha Chavula and Joel Kapunda, were arrested on April 18 2012 and were charged with murder following police investigations into Msiskaâ€™s death. They all pleaded not guilty.
A post-mortem by pathologist Charles Dzamalala also revealed that Msiska, who was a student at Natural Resources College, died of assault.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the State represented by Josephine Gwaza and Assistant Commissioner of Police Barbra Mchenga paraded three police officers as witnesses. The State has eight witnesses.
Mphatso Phiri, who found Msiska with items suspected to have been stolen, told the court that together with Kaunda, they took Msiska to the police station for failing to explain properly where he got the items.
A second witness Beatrice Makalichi, who was on duty, said Msiska confided in her that he had not suffered any injury during arrest.
â€œI asked him about his condition as per custody rule. We are required to check if the suspect is in good health before we lock them up. We are asked not to receive suspects who are injured,â€ said Makalichi.
She said she noticed that Msiskaâ€™s health had deteriorated the following day and he could hardly walk without help from fellow suspects. Makalichi said she also noticed bruises on his body and was in acute pain.
She said authorities issued a remand warrant on January 28 for the suspect to be sent to Mzuzu Prison despite his poor health, but this was later cancelled and he was instead taken to Mzuzu Central Hospital the following day where he was pronounced dead.
Benard Panthungo, who was the last to testify, said the suspect died in police hands, adding that Msiskaâ€™s condition was so bad but when he asked for help, officers paid little attention.
The case has since been adjourned to August 21.