St. Lucia pathologist rules on death in custody

CASTRIES, St. Lucia (AP) - The official pathologist for the small Caribbean country of St. Lucia has ruled that a young man died from asphyxia in a police lockup, but offered no further clarification on his death, officials said Tuesday.

Police say they found 22-year-old Chakadan Daniel hanging in a cell last week in a station in the eastern village of Micoud. He had been arrested on warrants charging him with escaping custody, assaulting an officer and damaging property.

The dead man's relatives insisted he would never have killed himself and accused police of beating him and then strangling him. The pathologist's report noted the corpse had a head contusion.

The case comes a few months after the U.S. withdrew assistance to St. Lucia's police over concerns about allegations of a dozen unlawful killings between 2010 and 2011. The deaths occurred during a security initiative called "Operation Restore Confidence" as the tourism-dependent island grappled with a rise in violent crime.

Assistant Police Commissioner Frances Henry released the pathologist's ruling. She said the island's director of public prosecutions would have to determine if a coroner's inquest or another review should be held.

Daniel's death is still under investigation by detectives, and Henry said she has met with members of his family and their lawyer.

Dr. McDonald Chase observed the autopsy at the insistence of the dead man's family. He said an inquest should be held to clear up the matter.

"The autopsy was not conclusive whether it was murder or (self) hanging," Chase said.

Prosecution officials and the attorney for the Daniel's family did not return calls for comment.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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