Updated | German man commits suicide at Police depot

A 36-year-old German man arrested on drug charges found dead at Police headquarters lock-up, the second time a detainee committed suicide while in police custody • Commissioner of Police defends security measures, does not rule installation of CCTV in cells

Police Commissioner Michael Cassar (right)
Police Commissioner Michael Cassar (right)

A 36-year-old German man who had been living in Malta for three months has hanged himself inside the Police Headquarters, the second time in three months that a detainee committed suicide while in police custody.

The German’s lifeless body was found in one of the cells at the police lock-up at around 10:40pm during a routine check by a policeman on duty. Efforts to give the man first aid proved futile, and he was certified dead moments later.

Addressing a crime conference this morning, Commissioner of Police Michael Cassar said circumstances indicated that the man, whose name is not yet being disclosed as his relatives have not been informed of his death, had committed suicide.

The circumstances surrounding the man’s suicide are not yet known.

Flanked by Assistant police commissioner Mario Spiteri and Sliema police inspector Kenneth Haber, the chief of police said the man had a drug problem, and was unemployed and homeless, but was not known to Maltese police.

The chief of police said the man was arrested by Msida police after residents reported spotting him on rooftops. The man was subsequently taken to the Sliema police station before being taken to Mater Dei Hospital for methadone at his request after having confessed to suffering from a drug problem.

He was later transferred to the Floriana lock-up and was due to be arraigned today with drug possession and attempted theft before the grim discovery was made at around 10:40pm.

The man’s death is the second incident of its kind as in October, a 39-year-old man from Zejtun who had been arrested in a drug bust hung himself using a bedsheet inside the Floriana depot lock-up.

The inquiry in that case is still ongoing.

Defending the procedures at the police lock-up, the Commissioner of Police said a report by the Council of Europe's Commission for the Prevention of Torture in September found the procedures to be compliant.

Nevertheless, the commissioner explained that following the incident in October, the police had increased cell inspections and that in this case, the man was checked 15 minutes before the grim discovery was made, and that he was now considering installing CCTV inside the cells.

“I am seriously considering installing cameras inside the actual cells. People’s dignity and privacy must be respected, but if cameras can save lives, I am considering them … Nevertheless, anyone who wants to harm themselves will unfortunately, do it anyway,” he said.

The police commissioner also said the police immediately informed Duty Magistrate and that it will offer its full cooperation by providing the CCTV footage of the corridors to the court appointed inquiry. The Commissioner also insisted that the police will not interfere in the investigations to ensure transparency and to ensure that the “truth came out.”