23 June 2013

Zambia: Missing Taxi Driver - Suspect Commits Suicide in Custody

THE key suspect in the disappearance of a Lusaka taxi driver who went missing three weeks ago, has committed suicide, while in police custody, throwing the investigations into disarray.

The unidentified suspect from Lusaka's M'tendere Township took his life in cells at Lusaka Central Police Station where he was held for more than one week.

Lusaka Province Police chief Joyce Kasosa, who confirmed the incident, said the suspect killed himself two weeks ago. He was buried on Monday last week.

She said he was arrested by police because he was found with the vehicle belonging to Simon Phiri, the missing taxi driver.

Ms Kasosa said the suspect was found in possession of the vehicle shortly after Simon's disappearance and that police were still investigating the matter as there was another person believed to have been involved.

And Simon's father, Rabson Phiri, 73, and his mother Catherine, 63, told the Sunday Times that following the disappearance of their son, one suspect was picked up but they were shocked when they heard that he had committed suicide, while in police custody.

Simon, who was 27, was last seen on the morning of May 30 in M'tendere Township in the company of unidentified people and has not been seen since then. His taxi was later discovered in Kanyama Township.

Speaking from his home in M'tendere Township, Mr Phiri said before killing himself, the suspect had told the police that Simon was actually alive in Mumbwa where he had gone and was accompanied by one person only identified as Steven, whose whereabouts could also not be traced.

He further said during interrogations, the suspect had allegedly given the police a number of conflicting statements.

"Now the answers we want from the police are why they took long to take this suspect to Mumbwa where he claimed Simon had gone. We wonder how the suspect committed suicide in police custody," Mr Phiri said.

"Because now it is like everything has to start all-over again because the key person is not there anymore and it is now three weeks."

Speaking earlier, Simon's mother said his son's phone was off from midmorning of May 30 and had remained so since then.

Mrs Phiri said when they enquired the following day at the taxi rank where their son operated from, the family was told that he had not shown up.

Several taxi drivers have so far been killed with the recent being Vincent Chandhla, whose body was discovered in Kabangwe area in a decomposed state.

Vincent's body was discovered with the rib-cage ripped, while vital organs, including his private parts, eyes and tongue were removed.

Another taxi driver, Matthews Chipili, 20, was killed and found with his facial skin peeled off and his left eye plucked out, while Joseph Simfukwe, 28, who was operating from Downtown Shopping Mall in Lusaka, was beheaded in January, this year.

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