The Supreme Court has condemned a police officer to death for causing the death of a suspect he beat up with a short baton on his head while in custody. This is in a case involving detective sergeant Thomas Kalambatila, who is based at Benny Mwiinga Police Post in Lusaka’s PHI, who murdered a suspect who was in police custody for stealing a laptop.
Facts before the court are that on March 23, 2012, there was a break-in at Peter Chilwana’s house and he suspected Boniface Mukupa of having been among those who stole his items. During interrogations by Kalambatila, Mukupa went into convulsions, fell down and died. He was taken to the University Teaching Hospital where he was confirmed dead. The court heard that after investigations into what led to Mukupa’s death, Kalambatila was charged with murder.
During trial, three people testified that they saw Kalambatila beat Mukupa with a short baton on the head and that he collapsed and died in their presence. On the other hand, five police officers who were called to testify all defended Kalambatila, stating that he did not assault Mukupa. The officers told the court that Mukupa was beaten by a mob before he was taken to the police station and that he was probably epileptic. And in his defence, Kalambatila adopted the line of defence the police officers presented before the court.
In delivering judgment, the lower court dismissed the testimony of the police officers stating that they intended to save their colleague and, therefore, their testimony lacked credibility.
Kalambatila was convicted and sentenced to death. When he appealed to the Supreme Court, Kalambatila argued that the High Court judge erred in law and fact because a pathologist stated that the injury could have been caused by someone who could have hit Mukupa with a stick on the back of his head.
However, Supreme Court Judge Gregory Phiri dismissed Kalambatila’s grounds of appeal because they lacked merit. “There is evidence from the witnesses whom the trial judge found to be credible that a short baton was used. The pathologist’s report did not rule out the possibility of the deceased’s injury being caused by such a method.
“So there were reasonable grounds for the trial judge to make that finding. Under these circumstances, we find no merit in the appeal," reads the judgement in part.