Doubts emerge over woman found dead in police custody in Brussels

Doubts emerge over woman found dead in police custody in Brussels
Credit: Bruno Fahy/Belga.

The alleged death by suicide of Sourour Abouda in police custody has been put into question by the 46-year-old victim's family, who has expressed doubts over police's claim that she strangled herself with a jumper after being arrested.

A recent report by the RTBF revealed that sources close to the investigation into her death no longer believed that Abouda had killed herself. Their opinion has changed after seeing "surveillance images of the cell, but not only."

The woman, who had worked at an NGO, was arrested on the evening of 12 January, after a couple in Ixelles found her inside their car heavily intoxicated. She had previously been at a dinner with her colleagues. Police were subsequently called and arrested her, but what happened next has remained a mystery to the victim's family and lawyers.

Abouda was brought to a police cell on Rue Royale at 06:32. She was later found dead by another police officer two hours later. Her family was told the next day that she had committed suicide in the police cell, which they struggled to believe.

As a result, an investigation was launched by Committee P, the independent body that oversees the police, the findings of which are yet to be fully revealed.

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However, the RTBF's report has indicated skepticism over the police's original conclusion. As previously mentioned, the police's initial report found that a third party had not played a role in Abouda's death, a theory that has apparently since been dismissed by the committee.

The French-speaking outlet also revealed that the police report did not state that Abouda was intoxicated at the time of her arrest. This has led to questions being asked on why a doctor was not called in to check and decide whether she needed to be taken to hospital.

Moreover, the investigation will also have to determine why a full hour passed between her death and the arrival of the first police officer in her cell, with sources revealing to the RTBF that "more than an hour is considered to be a long time" in such cases.

Those in need of a listening ear or with any questions about suicide can contact the Suicide Line anonymously on the toll-free number 1813 or at in Dutch, at 0800 32 123 in French, or at 02 648 40 14 in English.

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