Verdict challenged over Kiwi's death

Last updated 15:40 24/02/2014
Hans Dalton
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HANS DALTON: Found dead in a prison cell in Samoa.

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Samoa's attorney general is challenging a not-guilty verdict given to a prison inmate accused of murdering a New Zealander in his Samoan prison cell.

Aucklander Hans Dalton, 28, had been taken to Samoa's Tafaigata Prison on Christmas Day in 2012. He was found dead the next day, upside down in a 44-gallon water barrel.

His death was initially treated as a suicide.

In a Supreme Court trial in Apia earlier this month, a panel of four assessors found fellow-prisoner Jonathan Patrick Crichton, 22, of American Samoa, guilty of murdering Dalton, but the verdict was over-ruled by Justice Lesa Rapi Va'ai.

That decision is now being appealed by Samoa's Office of the Attorney General.

Attorney General Aumua Ming Leung Wai confirmed the appeal to news website Talamua, but would not comment on the grounds of the appeal.

Crichton was serving a life sentence for murder committed in 2012.

Dalton had been in Samoa when the country was hit by a cyclone, causing severe damage. He was unable to get medication for a mental condition and became aggressive. He was taken to hospital and then the police took him to Tafaigata Prison.

At the trial, the prosecution said Crichton became angry at Dalton's swearing, calling out, punching the door and wall all night.

Crichton entered Dalton's room by unlocking a padlock and drowned him in a 44-gallon drum half-filled with water inside the room, it was claimed. The water was used to flush the toilet.

Crichton allegedly admitted his action in a statement to police, but that was later contested during the trial.

Police Inspector Samuelu Afamasaga read out part of Crichton's police statement: "I pushed Hans to the wall, grabbed his feet and pushed him head first into the gallon of water."

He then went back to his cell.

"I got scared by what I did so I went back, looked at his legs then called out to the people on duty that a man had killed himself," the statement said.

Crichton told the court Afamasaga had threatened him over the statement, and said he believed Dalton had committed suicide.

The appeal will be heard in April.

Talamua was also reporting that Dalton's family, who supported Crichton throughout the trial, was now suing the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Health for more than $20 million.

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