Tongan cops guilty over Kiwi's death
A Tongan police inspector and a constable have been found guilty of the manslaughter of Auckland policeman Kali Fungavaka in 2012.
Fungavaka, a constable with Counties Manukau police, had been picked up drunk in Nuku'alofa and later beaten up in a police cell. He died a week later on August 23, 2012, having never regained consciousness.
Five Tongan police officers were charged with manslaughter along with a civilian who had been locked up in the same cell with Fungavaka.
In the Tongan Supreme Court today, Justice Charles Cato, who is from Auckland, found Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia and Constable Salesi Maile guilty of manslaughter and remanded them in custody for sentencing on July 1.
He found Constable Fatai Faletau guilty of assault, after acquitting him of manslaughter and the alternative charge of grievous bodily harm.
The judge acquitted Constables Tevita Vakalahi and Manu Tu'ivai on charges of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.
Last month civilian Semisi Kalisitiane Manu was convicted by jurors of grievous bodily harm.
The Matangi Tonga website said Cato told the court he found beyond any reasonable doubt that Hala'ufia was responsible for causing Fungavaka's skull fracture and brain trauma with a torch together with secondary trauma caused by strangulation.
"I have no reasonable doubt that his deliberate act of hitting Fungavaka with the torch with such force that it fractured his skull, with a lethal blow and was a very material, and indeed a substantial, cause of his death," the judge said.
Cato said the strangulation was a further trauma that disrupted the blood flow and oxygen to Fungavaka's brain being a secondary factor also materially contributing to his death.
"There can be no lawful excuse for these actions or any justifications of them," he said.
Cato said there was also no doubt about Maile's role.
"He deliberately stomped on Fungavaka's head with considerable force with [the victim's] face uppermost and off the ground so that his head impacted with the floor in the passageway to the cells with sufficient force to cause him further serious head and brain trauma, and indeed [was] a substantial additional cause of Fungavaka's death." the judge said.
Matangi Tonga said Cato delivered his verdict to a full courtroom that included Fungavaka's family including his mother Rosemary, wife Audra, ex-wife Kelly and other members of his extended family, who cried as the verdicts were delivered.