Blunt force trauma caused death, doctors says
A New Zealand police officer killed in Tonga had massive head injuries, a court has been told.
The Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court is hearing evidence over the death of South Auckland Constable Kali Fungavaka who 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 six men charged with manslaughter, with an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm, are Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia along with four police constables Manu Tu'ivai, Tevita Vakalahi, Salesi Maile, Fatai Faletau and Kalisitiane Manu, who was a detainee at the time.
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 their were multiple injuries found on the victim's body ranging from a fractured skull, bleeding and bruising to his brain, a fractured neck bone with bruises to other parts of his body.
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 in the arresting area.
"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.
He said at 12.30am another alleged incident occurred in the police station where the victim was choked to a point of loosing consciousness. He is alleged to have received a stomping on his head with a boot and was placed unconscious inside a prison cell.
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.
"As a result of the autopsy and review of information available to me at the time, I wrote this report and formed the opinion that the cause of death was a huge blunt blow trauma to the head," Dr Garavan said.
He said that there were three separate incidents where the deceased received head injuries, Matangi Tonga reported.
"Firstly, the incident of stomping that the victim allegedly received, in my opinion, did not cause the swollen fracture to his skull. The fracture of the bone on his neck indicated extreme force applied to it, while the incident inside cell number 7 when he was punched on the face and fell backwards striking his head did not provide explanation to the fractured skull. These incidents on its own did not cause the death."
He said that leaves the incident outside the Timeout Bar where the victim allegedly received a blow to his head by a weapon, possibly a torch.
Dr Garavan said if the victim was given early medical attention he might have survived, but he could not be certain. Given the circumstances, the major injury was to the head, all the other injuries had a compound effect to the death, Matangi Tonga reported.
The preliminary hearing continues tomorrow.