Tongan judge suppresses details

Last updated 20:53 27/02/2013
BASHED: Kali Fungavaka
BASHED: Kali Fungavaka

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Prisoners are expected to recount what they saw when a New Zealand police officer was allegedly beaten at a Tongan police station.

South Auckland constable Kali Fungavaka died in hospital in Nuku'alofa after he was allegedly assaulted while in custody at the central police station there on August 17 last year.

The Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court today heard from the inmates at the prison at the time of the assault, however, it is still unclear what was said.

In a surprise move today, Magistrate Salesi Mafi told media today not to publish the names of the accused.

However, Tonga's Media Council president Pesi Fonua has sought clarification whether his instruction was a court order or suggestion.

Six men are charged with manslaughter, with an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm.

Fungavaka was in the country for a family funeral and had been arrested for public drunkenness.

Matangi Tonga said New Zealand forensic pathologist Fintan Garvan examined the body in Auckland Hospital and reported to the court he believed that the cause of death was a
huge blunt force trauma to the head.

In a report, he said the victim suffered multiple injuries including a fractured skull, bleeding and bruising to his brain, a fractured neck bone.

Dr Garvan's report was produced by Crown prosecutor Sione Sisifa on the second day of a preliminary hearing into the homicide, Matangi Tonga reported.

The victim was spoken to by members of the Tonga police for allegedly drinking in a public place. He was asked to take his drink back into the bar and was subsequently arrested for being drunk in a public place.

He said Funavaka was escorted 150 metres from the bar to the police station and at some point after his arrest he was assaulted within the police cell block.

Information suggested that the victim fell, striking his head on a concrete floor at the police station, and there was an admission from police that he was strangled or choked before he fell on his head, because he was being aggressive.

"The exact nature of events was not clear at the time I wrote my report," the pathologist said, according to Matangi Tonga.

In his report, Dr Garavan said he was told that just after 12am on August 18 last year an incident occurred outside Timeout Bar and it was alleged that the victim received a blow to the head by a weapon of some sort, possibly a torch, as he walked some 150 metres to the police station.

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Another incident was alleged to have occurred inside the cell where there were 20 other prisoners.

The victim was alleged to have received a punch on the face, which caused him to fall backwards and hit his head on a pipe on the wall.

At 2am he remained unconscious and was placed in another cell.

At 5.30am he was removed from cell number 6 and was taken to the hospital where he failed to regain consciousness and died on August 23.

"The cause of death was a huge blunt blow trauma to the head," Dr Garavan said.

- Stuff

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