Children cry every night for killed cop

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 09:26 02/07/2014
Kali Fungavaka
TRAGIC DEATH: NZ policeman Kali Fungavaka.

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Children of a New Zealand policeman beaten to death in Tonga in 2012 are still crying each night, grieving for their father, a Nuku'alofa court has heard.

"My son constantly tells me that his father was killed by policemen," said Cally Ruahe, former wife of Counties Manukau Constable Kali Fungavaka.

"For the last two years I am awakened every night by my daughter's crying and I sleep by her side until she falls asleep."

Fungavaka, who had been in Tonga for a funeral, was picked up drunk by Tongan police and taken to cells where he was beaten unconscious. He died a week later on August 23, 2012, having never regained consciousness.

Last month in the Tongan Supreme Court, Justice Charles Cato, who is from Auckland, found Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia and Constable Salesi Maile guilty of manslaughter.

They were to have been sentenced yesterday but the Matangi Tonga website said Justice Cato wanted time to reflect on submissions he had heard and they will be sentenced next Wednesday.

The third policeman, Fatai Faletau, who was found guilty on a lesser charge of assault will be sentenced on July 29 so the judge can get his probation report.

Ruahe, mother of the dead policeman's five children, told the court her children could not comprehend not having their father.

"My children have endured many sleepless nights weeping for their father with so many questions running through their young minds - who could do such violent act to such a loving and humble man?" she said.

"They say time heals all wounds but after my experience with my children who are still mourning the loss of their father I have come to the conclusion that it would take a lifetime for my children's wounds to heal."

She told the guilty men their thoughtless actions were inhumane.

"My children will forever live with the fact that their father was brutally beaten by men of authority," Matangi Tonga said she told the court.

Audra Watts Fungavaka, the constable's wife at the time of his death, was not present in court but her statement was read out.

She had been in Auckland when he was taken to hospital in Nuku'alofa.

She spoke of hearing on the phone not "words but groans."

Watts Fungavaka, who is also a police officer, said the worst day of her life was the day she had to bury her husband who was a son, a devoted father, a brother, a cousin, a friend, a leader, mentor, sportsman and a fellow police officer.

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"We were burying a man who was loved and respected by many people who [he] listened [to] and supported, which is what he enjoyed doing," her statement said.

She said she had stayed out of the media because she had nothing good to say about what had happened.

"I can speak of how much I loathe the men who took my husband's life but what would that accomplish?" she said.

Her husband had not been fighting in the street in Nuku'alofa but had been waiting for a ride home from a sober driver.

In New Zealand a police officer needed a good reason to arrest somebody and brutality was not tolerated.

"I hated the fact that during the trial I heard numerous times of Kali asking them what he had done wrong and not one of out of all police officers there took the time to explain to Kali," Matangi Tonga reported her saying.

"But using their fists to shut him up and it seemed this how these police officers explained things."

- Stuff

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