Family of woman found dead in police custody in Brussels reject suicide claims

Family of woman found dead in police custody in Brussels reject suicide claims
Credit: Belga / Paul-Henri Verlooy

Further details are emerging of the woman found dead in the cell of the Brussels Capital-Ixelles police station located in Brussels on Friday morning, RTBF reports.

According to the information given to the family, the victim committed suicide by strangling herself with her jumper – a version of events which is being strongly contested by the family’s lawyer, Selma Benkhelifa: "The family does not believe at all in the hypothesis of a suicide. They were told that she strangled herself with her jumper, which seems impossible."

The victim, named Sourour A, was a Belgian-Tunisian woman who worked in the non-profit sector and mother of a 19-year-old boy. She had been questioned a few hours earlier while drunk in the Châtelain district of Ixelles, yet the exact reasons for the arrest of Sourour A have yet to be clarified. The surveillance camera images of the street where she was arrested have yet to be seized and should shed some light on the matter.

However, the police decided to place her in police custody. At around 7 am the next day, the lifeless body of Sourour A was found.

The images from the cell's cameras are a key element in the investigation. When informed of the facts, the police's internal control unit passed on the information to Committee P, who has since opened an investigation.

The police monitoring body has already viewed the images of the cell where the victim died.

In principle, the footage should be transmitted to the Brussels Public Prosecutor's Office, who has opened a judicial investigation, one of its spokespersons explained: "An investigation has been ordered, a forensic doctor attended the scene and an autopsy has been carried out. But according to the first elements of the investigation, it appears to be a suicide."

"Not a suicidal person"

According to RTBF's information, the results of the autopsy are expected on Monday. However, it is the surveillance camera images of the cell where Sourour A died that are likely to be central to this case, Selma Benkhelifa insists: "The police station cell is indeed equipped with cameras. They have been seized and will show what really happened. We hope that there will be no malfunction or other technical problem that will prevent them from being viewed."

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"My sister was not a suicidal person," said Sourour A's sister. "She had a 19-year-old son with whom she lived and who was everything to her. She would never have abandoned him.

The family was able to visit the INCC, the National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology, where the victim's body is located. "We want the circumstances of Sourour's death to be fully explained. We want to know why there was no surveillance of our sister when she was in a cell. We will go all the way", says the family.

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