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Man dies in police holding cell

A 28-year-old Nigerian national was found dead in the holding cells of Lwandle Police Station last week (Wednesday 1 May).

Victor Udes is believed to have hanged himself after he was detained for riotous behaviour for a few hours.

Moses Dlamini, spokesperson for the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (Ipid), confirmed the unit is investigating the matter, after Lwandle police responded to a domestic disturbance complaint at a house around 10:30.

Visibly angry Nigerian nationals gathered at the Lwandle Police Station after hearing one of their countrymen had died. They demanded to see the body, but apparently only one person, Happiness Maduora, was allowed to view it.

He does not believe Udes committed suicide. “The body was on the ground and his tongue was not hanging outside his mouth, which is [usually] a tell-tale sign of a person who hangs himself,” Maduora said.

“His slippers were still on his feet and he did not wet himself. The police must tell us what happened to our brother and not give us this suicide story. We believe it’s a lie. What I saw inside was not suicide.”

He said he and other associates of the deceased will examine the body when it is taken to the mortuary, and that their lawyers would handle the matter.

John Anyaoku, president of the Nigerian Association in the Helderberg, suspects foul play in Udes’ death. “He was strong and healthy,” he said.

“There was no reason for him to kill himself, as it is not in the nature of Nigerians to commit suicide. The police were called for domestic violence, yet they searched his house without a search warrant. There was an altercation, which may have led to his death.”

As more Nigerian nationals arrived at the police station on Wednesday afternoon, anger among the crowd grew and they exchanged heated words with police officers, who started arming themselves with firearms and rubber bullets.

Meanwhile, the police’s version is that on their arrival at the address where the complaint was made, they apparently spoke to a woman who introduced herself as an ex-girlfriend of the deceased.

The woman allegedly told the officers she was in the process of moving out of the residence, Dlamini said.

“It is alleged the woman told the police officers the deceased was involved in drug dealing,” he said. “

The police officers allege the deceased grabbed an object wrapped in plastic and swallowed it.”

After Udes was questioned by the officers, it is alleged he became unruly and swore at them, Dlamini added. He was then arrested for riotous behaviour.

“The deceased was detained at Lwandle Police Station holding cells and he was found hanging at 12:27. It is alleged he used his jersey [to hang himself],” said Dlamini, adding the body was transferred to the Tygerberg Hospital mortuary, where a postmortem will be conducted.

He said an inquest was being investigated by Ipid.

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