Scathing report into Auckland man's murder

00:40, Aug 13 2014
Hans Dalton
HANS DALTON: Found dead in a prison cell in Samoa.

A mentally ill Auckland man spent his last hours in a Samoan prison punishment cell on Christmas Day pitifully crying out for his wife and children before being murdered, an official report has found.

But none of the prison officers could be bothered to help.

The body of Hans Dalton, 28, was found upside down in a water barrel and his death was initially ruled a suicide.

He had been on holiday in Samoa when he was caught in a hurricane and lost access to medication.

On Christmas Day 2012 Samoa Police, rather than help him, sent him to the notorious main prison at Tafa'igata, outside Apia, where he was thrown into a "pa sima" or punishment cell.

A commission of inquiry chaired by ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma has emotionally recounted what happened.


The Samoa Observer ( published the leaked report in full today, revealing severe criticism of the police and prison system.

Maiava says when Dalton arrived he "mumbled to himself continuously but otherwise he was not an active threat to anyone".

Later he screamed loudly and shook the bars and punched the concrete walls.

"It is clear that the mentally ill man had kept up his loud screaming and occasional swearing throughout the night."

He was "heard to call out 'Lisa', his wife's name to the deaf world around him".

Maiava wondered why senior officers were not involved in helping Dalton.

"How could the pitiful cries of an ill, for all intents and purposes, totally trapped human being yearning aloud desperately for the comfort of his wife and children, not be heard in the midst of assembled police manpower poised in readiness supposedly, to keep the community safe?"

At 7.15 am he was found dead head down in a large drum half full of water in the prison cell.

The police aggressively claimed at the time that Dalton had killed himself but when it was plain he could not have done it, another prisoner was charged with murder.

He was found not guilty and so far no-one has been punished.

The Daltons in Auckland are suing the Samoan Government.

"The event ... tells of the pitifully low level of performance that Tafa'igata prison through habit has permanently set for itself to deliver," Maiava's report said.

"It reflects miserably also on the capacity of Samoa Police to be sensitive and responsive to the situation of an ill person in desperate need of relief from his mental anxieties."

Maiava said other than two low ranking guards, no one had been held to account for Dalton's death.

Dalton could have had help, but it did not enter the mind of the duty leader on duty.

"To him the mentally ill detainee was a nuisance."

Dalton's death was followed by a so-called "ghost letter" revealing corruption in the police and prison, resulting in the establishment of the commission of inquiry.

The report said there was a "significant culture of petty corruption, prisoner ill treatment and exploitation" at the prison.

The report said while police officers are unarmed, they kept prisoners controlled through fear and the pa sima.

Escaping is unrealistic for prisoners in a place like Samoa: "Escapees inevitably find themselves quickly back in prison and into the ever waiting solid, sinister, dank and de-humanizing reality of the prison pa sima."

Prisoners told the inquiry they were treated like slaves.

"Prisoners claim to be subjected to indignities through requirements put in procedures to cause humiliation for the sake of humiliation."

Prisoners are routinely subject to "disgusting expressions" and "arrogant uncouthness".

"Rehabilitation in any meaningful sense is not a feature of the Samoan prison system."

The report said "severe injuries as a result of beatings are not an uncommon sight or happening in prison".

The commission said concern over homosexual activity at Tafa'igata prison featured prominently in the "ghost letter".

"The indulgence of individuals in homosexual activity is we think no fabrication but cannot be said to be unusually extensive. It does not appear to be an issue at all in the male sector of the prison."

The report also reports on a police officer trying to have sex with a young female officer while on duty.

"The woman was barely an adult at the time...," the report said.

"She was physically overwhelmed on both occasions by the commanding officer's strength, slaps and vicious pinching as she struggled with him to keep her clothes on.

"She was luckily spared the ultimate violation on each occasion by the man's own physical inabilities at the crucial stages of his attacks."