Accused Tongan Police Officers Denied Assaulting Kiwi

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Detectives who interviewed alleged killers take the stand

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 30, 2014) – The accused Police Constables Salesi Maile and Fatai Faletau had in their Record of Interviews denied assaulting Kali Fungavaka when he was in custody on the night of August 17, 2012 at the Nuku’alofa Police station.

Detectives from a special investigation team on the case were witnesses on day 14 of the trial into Kali’s death today, at the Supreme Court. Each witness read out the record of interviews carried out separately on Maile and Faletau prior to Kali’s death. Detective Sione Katoa who interrogated the accused Maile recorded his interview on August 22, 2012 read out over 60 questions that were put to the accused.

Maile’s answers confirmed that he was working on the night as part of the Tactical Response Group, that included the other four accused and three other officers. He had stated that one of their tasks was to patrol public areas and on the night patrolled nightclubs and bars that included Timeout, and Reload, among others. They arrested drunken people who they brought to the Nuku’alofa police station. "I only knew of Kali’s name later after it was taken down," he said.

The accused said that he, Faletau and Hala‘ufia had assisted in Kali’s search at the charge office at the station. When he was asked why? He said they assisted in searching Kali because the officers at the charge office could not as he was attacking these officers. He said when they searched Kali, Faletau held his hands to his chest as he lay down on floor while Hala’ufia and he held each of his legs and another officer PC ‘Aho took off his shoes and other things.

The accused said that he did not take Kali to the cell and could not confirm who was the other officer who took Kali to the cell with Faletau. He said he did not help Faletau take Kali to the cell because Faletau had told him to go back to Hala’ufia because the other drunk person was starting to stand up and was mumbling he did not want to go into the cell. He further said he did not know which cell Kali was put in.

Maile also said in his interview that when Kali was led to the cell he did not walk. Faletau had lifted his armpits and dragged him to the cell.

Why did Faletau lift him and not lead him, asked the detective. He said because Kali had passed out drunk as he was going to be taken to the cell.

"Do you believe it is possible for him to pass out when he was restless and twisting around?" He said yes, because Kali had tried to punch Faletau and he fell down and passed out.

The accused then denied doing anything to Kali before he was put into the cell because he was disobedient.

"I put to you we have information that you and Faletau had assaulted Kali at the police station?" The accused said no they did not assault him.

The detective also put to him they had information that while Kali was being dragged to the cell Kali tried to reach up and that he (Maile) stomped on his face with his shoe and Kali’s head hit the floor. The accused again said this was not true.

The detective then charged the accused with assault in relation to the stomping and punching Kali on various parts his body. The accused voluntarily added in his charge statement that this was not true - he did not assault Kali but only held him up.

The court also heard Maile’s voluntary statement he wrote down, which was also read out in court.

The accused said he was certain that the work he did on Kali was lawful when brought him to the charge office. "I did not assault him and just held him, if I assaulted him I believe his face would have been affected but the work I carried out was lawful," the court heard from the record of interview.

The witness told the court that he did not carry out any further work in regards to Maile.

Another police witness, Seteone Poutele who was also a member of the special unit for this case had interviewed the accused Fatai Faletau on August 23, 2012. He read in court his record of interview.

The accused said on this night they had arrested drunken people from public places including the nightclubs and bars during their patrol. They had taken them to police station.

He told the officer they had encountered problems from the drunks that made things difficult including them swearing at the police.

The court heard from the interview of this accused that the TRG team had indeed wore blue overalls while some had caps on this night. The accused said they had encountered obstruction from the drunken people that included those arrested at the Timeout Bar on Taufa’ahau Road.

Faletau had agreed when questioned there was one person they could not put in the police vehicle but had to lead on foot. He and Maile led the person from in front of Timeout to the police station and when they got to the police station he was searched at the charge office, and placed in the cell and charged with drunkenness, the court heard.

The accused also admitted that he, Maile and Hala’ufia conducted the search on Kali which was not easy. "He made our work difficult because he kept twisting around, swore at us and punched at me but I swung away and other behaviours… I did not know his name until the following Monday as Kali," he said.

However Faletau in his interview said it was himself and Maile who had taken Kali to prison cell 7. He said they took Kali under each arm and his feet were dragging below.

The officer put to him they had information that two officers in overalls assaulted Kali before being dragged to the cell whether he knew anything about it. He said no, and denied assaulting Kali.

The officer again put to him that they had reliable information that one of them strangled Kali and he fell to the ground and one stomped on his face. "I put to you it was you and Maile." Faletau said, no.

The police witness said he did not carry any other work after Kali died.

The Crown will finish its final witness the Deputy Police Commissioner ‘Unga Fa’aoa tomorrow, May 1 before the trial moves on to the defence case.

The Police Inspector Kelepi Hala‘ufia and Police Constables Salesi Maile, Tevita Vakalahi, Manu Tu’ivai, Fatai Faletau who are being tried by judge alone before Mr Justice Cato have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter with an alternative charge of grievous bodily harm.

Kali Fungavakamanslaughteraccused policemenFatai FaletauSalesi Maile

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