139 Sifiso Shabangu(23) allegedly committed suicide in the cells at Eldorado Park police station a few hours after being picked by cops from his home in Freedom Park. 150514. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - A Soweto family suspect foul play in the death of their 24-year-old son who was found dead inside a police cell this week.

Sifiso Shabangu of Freedom Park, Soweto, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon. He allegedly died 40 minutes later, according to his family.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesman Moses Dlamini confirmed the death. He said an inquest was opened at Eldorado Park police station, where Shabangu had been detained.

Dlamini said Shabangu’s arrest was in connection with armed robbery.

“A police report indicates that he was found hanging on the burglar door of the cell at 5.10pm. A pathologist’s report states the cause of death was consistent with hanging,” he said.

Shabangu’s family disputed Dlamini’s version, however.

They said they were still puzzled by his arrest.

They claim police failed to provide reasons for the arrest.

Shabangu’s mother, Ntsoaki, said she had asked a friend to drive behind a police vehicle transporting her son to the station.

“He came back soon, saying they had been turned away. They returned with Sifiso’s clothes, as we had packed warm stuff for him, because it was getting cold,” said the devastated mother.

Ntsoaki said she was surprised later to see a police vehicle at her house. “The two officers told me to come with them to the station. When we arrived, the station commander said there was a problem.

“A police officer who was with us said my son had committed suicide,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“I don’t believe them. They refused to allow us to see his body at the time. We only saw it on Wednesday after a post-mortem was conducted. We were told the post-mortem would be performed today (Thursday). Why did they lie? Clearly, they are hiding something from us,” said Ntsoaki.

Shabangu’s aunt, Ntsundeni Gokolo, said police told the family he had asked to be left alone in his cell. “How can a person instruct police what they want and don’t want? Something is wrong.”

The family said they were informed on Thursday that a neighbour had opened a case against Shabangu.

“We were told he owed a Pakistani shopowner R200. But when we asked the owner, he said my brother had paid him,” said Shabangu’s brother Ndibu.

“He said his landlord was the one who opened a case. We are really hurting.”

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The Star