Auckland Constable Kali Fungavaka's body was last night taken on to Otara's Whaiora Marae as details emerge from a witness to the night he was arrested in Tonga.
Assaulted twice in Nuku'alofa - 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. The 38-year-old never regained consciousness and his life support was turned off last Thursday. His sister Miriam Filihia said the family would make more decisions about funeral arrangements once her father Tavake arrived tomorrow. He did not return on Saturday because another sibling, Bishop, was too distraught.
"My younger brother just took it hard, [Kali] coming back how he did ... so Dad stayed behind to comfort him," Mrs Filihia said.
The mourning would reflect Mr Fungavaka's wife Audra Watts' wishes and those of his wider family, who are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
"Our main focus is not only on his wife Audra but on the five children that he had. All we'd love is [the marae is] open to friends and family that want to come and pay their respects to Kali because I know that Kali did such a lot of hard work in the community."
Tongan police say Mr Fungavaka, who was in Tonga to bury his grandfather, was arrested for a minor drunkenness offence after going to a club with a relative.
A witness said Mr Fungavaka had been at Reload Bar - a popular tourist spot - on Friday the week before and was seen being escorted with another male by two police officers. A security guard who did not want to be named said: "He was pretty drunk, I'll tell you that. But for the way he was, he didn't have any problems with yelling, screaming, cussing or anything like that.
"But you could tell he was pretty drunk because he couldn't walk straight. They were both the same."
Asked if Mr Fungavaka had been struggling with the officers, the security guard said: "No, he was really quiet. Yes, he was drunk, but he didn't do anything, he wasn't screaming, yelling or anything."
Assistant police commissioner Viliami 'Unga Fa'aoa confirmed that Mr Fungavaka's relative had been in the same cell and was present when he was attacked. He did not return calls yesterday.