Serious concerns have emerged about the death of Paul Sackie Sonaka, who was allegedly found hanging in the police cell at the Zone 8, Thinkers Village Police Station, in Paynesville.
Police say Sonaka, 48, died on September 2, 2020 from suspected suicide after he was detained by up to three police officers, due to a complaint filed by the wife of the deceased, Kebbeh Sonaka. According to the complaint, Kebbeh accused her husband of beating her after he accused her of being involved in an extra marital affair with a police officer.
Madam Kebbeh, who is now leading her family’s campaign for justice for her slain husband, is demanding a robust and independent inquiry after “grave concerns” emerged about the incident.
Mr. Sonaka had been detained, handcuffed and allegedly flogged, following disagreement with police after he reportedly refused to let go of US$160 that was found in his pocket.
The Sonaka family believe that he was also beaten by police to have him subdued.
Police claim that upon receipt of Mrs. Sonaka’s complaint, the Mr. Sonaka was arrested and turned over to the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police.
Sonaka’s widow alleges that the police gave them false and conflicting accounts about the incident for some eight hours after the death of her husband at about 1:30 a.m. before finally revealing that he had died in custody later on Thursday morning.
A claim that the victim was turned over to the Women and Children Protection Section was also circulated by the police on the media, which added that he hung himself in the incident.
Madam Sonaka claimed that when she initially took her husband’s complaint to the police, there were no female officers on duty that particular night prior to his alleged hanging.
“Where did he get the rope to hang himself?” Sonaka’s widow wondered when she spoke with the Daily Observer recently.
Madam Sonaka further claimed that, while seeing the manhandling of her late husband, she decided to plead with the officers to let him go home so that she alone can sleep at the station; something Madam Sonaka claimed the police refused to accept.
“I begged them so that my husband can go back home because I only took him there for them to advise him and not [for them] to beat on him and undress him right in front of me,” Sonaka’s widow claimed.
Police also claimed that its Forensic Team had visited the scene and concluded that the deceased died as the result of hanging.
“Preliminary findings were immediately provided to the family on the outcome of the forensic examination that was conducted on the remains of the deceased suspect,” the police release claims.
“We communicated to the family about the outcome of our Forensic examination,” the police added.
The controversy deepened further after the police pleaded with Madam Sonaka to take possession of her husband’s lifeless body.
The family is now opting for an independent investigation, before they can take possession of his corpse, which is currently deposited in care of the police at an unknown funeral home.
“I have not seen my husband’s body and I don’t know where he is lying currently. We are concerned that none of the officers involved in the case that day have yet been suspended or investigated,” Madam Sonaka further claimed.
“We are demanding an independent investigation, because the police report has too many conflicting interests,” Madam Sonaka.
In tears, she said she did not expect the conflict that transpired between her and her husband to result in the death of her husband. However, given the circumstances surrounding his death, the family can only be satisfied when there is an independent investigation with autopsy to establish the main cause of death.