Slain cop: 'We just said that we love him'

By Yvonne Tahana

Kali Fungavaka had plans to take his two young daughters to live with him in Queensland; instead one of them sat crying at a kitchen table yesterday, head bent over a picture of her father.

As Tongan authorities try to piece together how the New Zealand policeman was killed, ex-wife Cally Ruahe was comforting the couple's four children.

She told the Weekend Herald Mr Fungavaka had revelled in being a father this year, taking Shiloah, 12, and Bailee, 9, to live with him and his new wife, Audra Watts, whom he married in Fiji last year. Brisbane was where he wanted to settle the family.

"He asked off his own bat to have them ... I'm so glad he had time with the girls."

Early Thursday evening the two girls and their brothers, Jalen, 11, and Mason, 7, kissed and hugged their dad before his life support system was turned off in a Tongan hospital.

Assaulted twice at the end of last week - allegedly by two Tongan policemen, and then inside a cell by a prisoner - Mr Fungavaka's head injuries were so serious that he needed surgery. He never regained consciousness.

Tongan police say Mr Fungavaka was in the Nuku'alofa cell in the early hours of last Saturday for a minor drunkenness offence. He and a cousin were arrested after they had been drinking following the funeral of Mr Fungavaka's grandfather.

It was a horrific end for the Otahuhu policeman whose efforts in trying to save a burning woman from dying in 2006 were recognised with one of this country's highest bravery awards and inspired him to join the force.

The four siblings and their mother were at home in Flat Bush yesterday after their brief return trip to Tonga. Another child, Dallin Kali, 4, who lives in Australia and was adopted by the family, is travelling to New Zealand for the funeral.

Bailee said she'd loved living with her father, but he was hopeless at picking out clothes for them. And her dad was a funny guy. "It's just funny because he's not that funny."

She remembered the sports-mad officer telling her about why he chose his profession. "I was proud," she said.

Shiloah, who has a patient way with her brothers - Jalen is autistic and Mason has developmental difficulties - spoke of saying goodbye.

"We just said that we love him and we sent our love from our other family, and that we all will miss him."

The Papatoetoe Intermediate student picked up a picture of Mr Fungavaka grinning broadly with a group of his colleagues all in uniform. Crying, she dropped her head over it. Another picture sat close by - a black-and-white baby picture of her, and again the beaming smile.

Brave, the cartoon about a red-headed princess, was the last film he took the girls to see: "He always helps, he was always there for us."

Ms Ruahe, who has also remarried, said being six months pregnant didn't stop her from taking the children to Tonga. She said it was the hardest thing she'd ever had to do.

"Prior to going I said to them, 'Something bad has happened to dad ... He got into a fight and some people beat him up really bad and now he's in hospital'.

"Turning into the hospital and just knowing it's going to be devastating for my kids ... I was just trying to prepare them as good as I could.

"I was just reminding them, 'No matter what, Daddy loves you and just remember the face, his beautiful smiling face from the photos'."

Assistant Police Commissioner Viliami'Unga Fa'aoa said Mr Fungavaka and his cousin had been in the same cell. "They were in the same cell, but he was released on Saturday morning," Mr Fa'aoa said.

Asked if the relative was present when Mr Fungavaka was attacked, he said: "Yes."

Mr Fa'aoa said the police wanted to assure the public that equal force would be applied to anyone associated with an assault on Mr Fungavaka, including police officers.

- NZ Herald

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