Weeping witness admits suicide lie

Last updated 15:34 23/01/2014
Hans Dalton
HANS DALTON: Found dead in a prison cell in Samoa.

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A prisoner who saw a New Zealander dying inside a barrel of water has dramatically rescinded his initial statement in which he said it was suicide.

He then admitted police had coached him to say that.

Aucklander Hans Dalton, 28, had been taken to Samoa's Tafaigata Prison on Christmas Day 2012, news website Talamua reported.

He was found dead next day, upside down in the water barrel. His death was initially treated as suicide.

Prisoner Jonathan Patrick Crichton, 21, of American Samoa, is on trial in the Supreme Court in Mulinu'u, Apia, over Dalton's death.

Talamua said a prisoner, Siliva Suitupe, 20, had given evidence and broke down during the hearing.

"That boy did not commit suicide," he said repeatedly.

He had been in the same block as Dalton and Crichton and said he saw what happened.

The court heard that after Dalton's body was removed from prison, Suitupe made a statement to police saying that he had heard Crichton call for help.

He said he ran to where Crichton was standing and saw Dalton's body in the drum of water.

"I called out 'this boy has killed himself, help is needed'," Suitupe said.

But then in a second statement two weeks later he gave a different account, stating that he had looked into the cell where Dalton was held.

"I saw Jonathan standing next to the drum of water and the palagi [Dalton's] body was in the drum," Suitupe testified.

"I saw the palagi's legs were moving as if he was trying to kick something."

He said he had not told the truth in the first statement because he had feared he might end up dead like Dalton.

Defence lawyer Rosella Papali'i put it to Suitupe that police had told him what to say.

"Did the police tell you that you would be their star witness and that you will be a star?"

The witness replied "yes", and broke down.

Talamua said Judge Lesatele Rapi Va'ai adjourned the court.

As a weeping Suitupe left the witness box Dalton's mother, who travelled from New Zealand for the trial, hugged him as he continued to cry, Talamua reported.

The trial continues.

Samoa has a mandatory death penalty for murder but it has always been commuted to life imprisonment.

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