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The BBC's Jon Sopel
For the families there will be anger and frustration"
 real 28k

Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Peake suspect death inquiry
Sid Abraham Rezala
Sid Ahmed Rezala was being held in a Lisbon jail
Portugal's justice department has ordered an inquiry into the prison suicide of the man accused of murdering British student Isabel Peake and two other women.

Sid Ahmed Rezala, 21, is thought to have died from asphyxia due to smoke inhalation soon after setting fire to his mattress in jail in Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday night.

He was being held awaiting extradition to France to face trial for the killings.

He was alone in the cell at the time and died soon afterwards.

Lawyers for families of his alleged victims in France angrily condemned what they called the series of blunders that allowed Rezala to escape standing trial.

Full investigation promised

Portuguese Justice Minister Antonio Costa said he deplored the suicide and promised a full investigation, while Mr Rezala's lawyers have asked the consulate in Lisbon for a full explanation of the incident.

Earlier, Isabel Peake's parents said they were shocked at the suicide.

"But of course it does not soften the blow of our daughter's death," Brian and Annie Peake, Barlaston, near Stone, Staffordshire, added in a statement.

"We need time to consider the implications of today's news. We will not be making any further statements at this stage and ask for our privacy to be respected."

Isabel Peake
Isabel Peake: Thrown to her death from a train
Mr Rezala was the prime suspect for the death of Miss Peake, 20, whose partially clothed body was found beside a rail track north of Limoges in France in October last year.

He was also a suspect in the stabbing of Corinne Caillaux, a 36-year-old French woman whose body was found in a sleeper train in Dijon in December last year.

Police believe he was also responsible for the death of Emilie Bazin, 20, whose body was found under a coal pile in the basement of a building in Amiens, north of Paris last December.

The Algerian-born suspect was arrested near Lisbon in January in a joint operation between French and Portuguese police.

Self harm

In March Mr Rezala slashed his arm and neck with a razor blade and was transferred to a prison hospital.

Prison authorities denied it was a suicide attempt. They said he was not badly hurt.

Mr Rezala had been facing extradition to France.

In May the supreme court in Lisbon rejected an application by Mr Rezala to overturn a lower court's decision to extradite him.

He lodged a final appeal against his extradition on 7 June.

Mr Rezala's appeal questioned whether he would face a jail sentence in his home country of more than 25 years, which is the maximum allowed in Portugal.

Under the Portuguese constitution, a defendant cannot be extradited to a country which allows the death sentence or a jail sentence of more than 25 years.

'Confession'

In May the French journal Le Figaro-Magazine published what it claimed was an admission of guilt by Mr Rezala to the three murders.

He said he had experienced a sudden mental "flash" which made him kill.

He was quoted as saying about Ms Peake: "She was very sweet. We got on well together at the station in Limoges. She telephoned her bloke ... and once more I saw the flash."

Ms Peake had been travelling back to England to visit her parents at their home.

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Europe
A sinister charmer
29 Jun 00 | Europe
Case a catalogue of bungles
29 Jun 00 | Europe
'Sad' suicide 'proves nothing'
29 Jun 00 | Europe
Peake suspect's alleged victims
18 Jan 00 | Europe
Murder suspect wounds himself
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