'Impossible to kill oneself like that': Questions persist over woman found dead in police cell

'Impossible to kill oneself like that': Questions persist over woman found dead in police cell
Rally organised in memory of Sourour Abouda who died in a police cell in Brussels Credit: Belga /  Anthony Gevaert

Over two months after the death of Sourour Abouda in police custody, the victim's family is still seeking answers, as they stated in an interview given to Le Soir. The family held a protest in front of Brussels' Palace of Justice on Saturday, alongside several hundred other demonstrators.

Having been taken into police custody in the municipality of Ixelles on 12 January in a heavily intoxicated state, Sourour Abouda's lifeless body was found by officers the next day. Police had concluded that the 46-year-old committed suicide by strangling herself with her jumper, with no third-party intervention.

However, doubts emerged over this conclusion, both from Abouda's relatives as well as internally within the police force, according to an RTBF report.

Police had not only changed their conclusion from "suicide" to "self-strangulation" but also failed to mention the victim's intoxicated state in their own report, according to the mayor of Ixelles Christos Doulkeridis. Moreover, inebriated arrests always call for prior medical intervention, which was not enacted by officers on site.

The time it took for officers to enter Abouda's cell is also being questioned. Her family members confirmed to Le Soir on Tuesday that a whole hour and ten minutes passed before police arrived at the scene of the death, after being given access to images from her cell's surveillance cameras.

Related News

"When the images start, Sourour was already in the cell," the victim's sister stated. Her family then revealed that a tense exchange occurred between Abouda and an officer. "She then put (her polyester sweater) around her neck and tied a knot with its sleeves," her sister explained.

In the images, she apparently tried to recreate a suicide attempt before concluding that "it is impossible to kill oneself like that" with such elastic clothing. For her, Abouda's act was "a call for help" and not a suicide attempt. 

The victims' relatives and lawyer stated that the images showed Abouda stated that she was suffocating before convulsing and falling to the cell floor.

The lack of images from the surveillance cameras has also particularly aggrieved the victim's family, as they were not able to view any resuscitation attempts. "It took forty minutes (between the first arrival of an officer into Abouda's cell and her time of death) to resuscitate her," her sister explained, "but did they? If so, why don't they show us these videos," she concluded.

Sourour Abouda's family in the meantime will continue their push for justice, with her brother concluding that "my sister's death isn't just another news item but should be a state affair."

When reached by The Brussels Times for a comment, the Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zone opted not to respond and instead referred to the Brussels Public Prosecutor's Office who is also yet to respond.

Copyright © 2024 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.