Tongan police bashed Kiwi with torch, court hears

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 09:51 09/04/2014

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A drunken New Zealand police officer was bashed with a torch and kicked in the head by five Tongan police officers, a Tongan court has heard.

In the Supreme Court in Tonga this week, the five face a charge of the manslaughter of Auckland constable Kali Funavaka who died on August 23, 2012, a week after he had been arrested for being drunk in public.

The Matangi Tonga website said police Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia and Constables Salesi Maile, Tevita Vakalahi, Manu Tu'ivai, Fatai Faletau pleaded not guilty to manslaughter with an alternative charge of grievous bodily harm.

They elected trial by judge alone before Justice Charles Cato, a former Auckland queen's counsel.

Crown Prosecutor 'Aminiasi Kefu said Funavaka had gone to Tonga to attend the funeral of his grandfather.

After the funeral Funavaka had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol at a bar in central Nuku'alofa.

He was seen falling on the street and a police unit saw him.

They went to arrest him, but he resisted and would not get into the vehicle. They walked him the short distance to the central police station.

The prosecutor said a witness saw a constable, Maile, hit Funavaka with what appeared to be a blunt object, causing him to fall to the ground.

Faletau and Maile were then seen kicking him.

They took him to the police station where witnesses said the inspector, Hala'ufia, then hit the prisoner on the top of the head with what seemed to have been torch and poked him on the chest with it.

The other accused stood over Funavaka and punched and kicked him, the prosecutor said.

A witness saw Hala'ufia grab and choke Funavaka's neck causing him to loose consciousness and they said he started to turn purple.

They dragged him to a cell where Maile stomped on the back of Funavaka's head and knocked him out and they left him lying on the floor. Later the New Zealand police officer regained consciousness and started to swear and challenge others to a fight.

Another prisoner, Semisi Manu, who is facing a separate trial on the same charges, told him to stop swearing and they got into an argument. Manu punched Funavaka, knocking him out.

When Funavaka started coughing blood and his head swelled, the prisoner called for help. Funavaka was not taken to hospital until next morning and died five days later.

The prosecutor said Funavaka's body was taken back to New Zealand for an autopsy which found that he had a skull-fracture on the top of the head. That was consistent with being hit by a hard blunt object.

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He also had a subdural haemorrhage at the bottom of his brain consistent with of hard force inflicted on his head.

The prosecution said those injuries killed the New Zealander.

"At the end of the case we will submit that the accused did act in a joint enterprise to cause bodily harm to Kali because he was resisting arrest and was swearing making them very upset," the prosecutor said.

Thirty witnesses are to be called in a trial expected to run until August.

- Stuff

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