Man wrongly arrested wants police to apologise

03:11, Nov 14 2012
Vaiola Fuapau
Home again: The Fuapau family, from left, Anna Fuapau, Levi Fuapau, 2, and Vaiola Fuapau, relax at home after Mr Fuapau spent two nights in police cells for a crime he did not commit.

Vaiola Fuapau thought the police just wanted to ask a few questions when they arrived at his door in Blenheim on Saturday night but it turned his weekend into hell.

The police arrested Mr Fuapau and he spent two nights in a cell at the Blenheim police station, but they discovered on Monday they had the wrong man.

Another man they had arrested in September had falsely given them Mr Fuapau's name and details.

The error was acknowledged when he appeared in court on Monday morning, but the affair has left him and his family angry and asking for an apology from the police.

Tasman police communications officer Barbara Dunn said police wanted to speak to Mr Fuapau directly and could not comment on his complaint until then.

Mr Fuapau said he first heard about the charges against him when lawyer Rennie Gould visited him last month.


As duty lawyer, she had been assigned to his case and went to speak to him after he failed to show up in court to face charges against him.

"She said my name, I said it's me. She said ‘is anyone named after you' and I said ‘no, I'm the only one'. She said to me ‘how old are you' and I said ‘forty-something' and she said this one is about 28."

After talking to her, he said he thought the matter was over.

When police arrived with an arrest warrant about 6.40pm on Saturday, he told them he had done nothing wrong.

He agreed to go to the station, thinking they would ask him some questions and release him.

"When we got to the police station I asked them if I can go home, but they said I had to stay till Monday.

"Then I was very, very angry."

He asked an officer to check the photo taken when the other man was arrested and was told it was of him, he said.

Anna Fuapau said she was able to make only one phone call to her husband while he was in custody and the situation had upset their 2-year-old son Levi.

Mr Fuapau usually looks after Levi while Mrs Fuapau works at night, and Levi had to spend Saturday night with her sister.

A police officer had offered to phone Mrs Fuapau after the arrest, but Mr Fuapau could not remember his phone number, which is not in the phone book.

Mrs Fuapau said she went to the station at 8pm but couldn't get in. It was not until she phoned the station shortly before 11pm she found her husband was being held until Monday.

She went back to the station at 9am on Sunday and was told she could not see him and would have to phone him, she said.

"They told me I could visit at two or three in the afternoon. Then she said ‘wait I'll check' and when she came back she said they would be busy with prisoners coming in from Christchurch and they couldn't let me visit.

"We just wanted to find out if he was OK."

Mr Fuapau said Mrs Gould was shocked when she saw him at court on Monday, and between them they were able to convince police prosecutor Sergeant Mark Lucas there had been a mistake.

Mr Fuapau said he wanted to make a complaint against the police.

"The policeman [at court] . . . didn't say sorry.

"I want them to say sorry for what they have done to my baby and my wife. I'm still angry."

As for the man who gave police his name, Mr Fuapau said he had told police who he thought it was and it was up to them to talk to that person.


Police won't comment on the case of a man wrongly held in their cells in Blenheim for two days over the weekend.

Vaiola Fuapau was arrested on Saturday night for failing to appear in court and was held in the station cells for two nights.

He was released on Monday morning when his lawyer convinced police they had arrested the wrong man because the man they wanted had given them the wrong name and details.

Tasman police district communications manager Barbara Dunn said yesterday they had decided not to respond to questions from the Express about the arrest.

Police did not want to air the matter again through the media.

"People will have already made up their minds," she said.

They would have preferred to comment in the original story published yesterday, she said.

However, when she was approached for comment on Monday afternoon, Ms Dunn said police in Blenheim had been unable to look into the matter as the police prosecutor had the file in court.


The Marlborough Express