Inquest Into Alleged Samoa Suicide Disappoints Family

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Coroner reportedly ‘convinced’ Tuilaepa asphyxiated

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 14, 2013) – The family of a 21-year-old mentally ill man found dead at Samoa’s Tafa’igata Prison in 2011 is gutted.

They are deeply unhappy about the outcome of an inquest into his death, which has concluded that Perry Tuilaepa 'committed suicide.'

Outside the District Court yesterday, Perry’s sister Dianne Tuilaepa Tautasi was in tears.

"We felt that something like this was going to happen," she said "The report from the pathologist stated the final cause of death for Perry was that he hung himself. We don’t believe that."

Prior to that inside the District Court, Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai said the Coroner is convinced Mr. Tuilaepa died from "asphyxiation."

"The mystery death of Perry Gam Tuilaepa, 21-yer-old male of Saoluafata that was taken to Motootua hospital was caused by asphyxiation," said Judge Vaepule.

"That was caused by suicide when he hung himself inside a cell at Tafa’igata prison. On the 12th July 2013, the inquest into the cause of death of Perry Tuilaepa is closed."

The Court’s written ruling was not immediately available.

But Mrs. Tautasi told the Weekend Observer their family is far from impressed.

She said maybe the inquest was "just another case" for the Court.

"But for us, Perry was someone we cared about. He was someone’s son."

Mrs. Tautasi said they are particularly unhappy about the Police.

"Someone is at fault here," she said. "We know he Perry was a difficult kid and it’s why he was put away but we know he did not commit suicide."

Earlier this week, His Honor Judge Vaepule accepted an application from lawyer of the Attorney General’s office, Brigitta Lo Tam-Fa’afiti to suppress reporting on evidence of the case.

The lawyer cited the Coroners Ordinance Act and to only report on "date, name, address and cause of death."

Perry suffered from a mental illness. In November that year, he was taken to the Mental Health Unit at Moto’otua. He was then referred to the Police Station in Apia since it became difficult to detain him at the Mental Unit. From the Police Station, Mr. Tuilaepa was transferred to Tafa’igata Prison.

A week later, he was found dead in his cell.

His father, Leitu Tuilaepa strongly believes his son did not hang himself.

"My son was never suicidal… no, he did not commit suicide," he said during a recent interview.

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