Cop farewelled by over 1000 people

By Abby Gillies

Constable Kali Fungavaka was farewelled to the sound of the bagpipes as his body was carried through a police guard of honour in South Auckland today.

More than 1000 people packed the LDS Stake Centre in Otara to remember the New Zealand policeman who died last week after he was assaulted twice in Tonga - allegedly by two Tongan policemen, and then inside a cell by a prisoner.

His funeral was held as it emerged charges against the two Tongan police officers had been upgraded from common assault to manslaughter.

Mourners, including community leaders and a large number of police officers, overflowed outside the building to pay tribute to the 38-year-old father, husband, son and brother.

Tearful tributes were made in English and Tongan for a man described as kind and compassionate.

"He was one of the best," said a man posted to Papua New Guinea for missionary work with Mr Fungavaka as a young man.

Hauntingly, he recalled seeing a comment Mr Fungavaka once posted on Facebook wondering how he would be remembered after he died.

The man spoke about working with Mr Fungavaka, who loved to help others and had a "God-like" quality: "Something that I loved and I wanted to be like him."

Speakers also talked of the need for forgiveness over the "terrible incident that happened to Kali".

Tongan police said Mr Fungavaka, who was in Tonga to bury his grandfather, was arrested for a minor drunkenness offence after going to a Nuku'alofa club with a relative.

Charges against the officers were upgraded as the murder charges against the civilian prisoner was downgraded to manslaughter.

The trio have been remanded in custody and will next appear in court on September 24.

Today's service reflected the wishes of Mr Fungavaka's wife Audra Watts and those of his wider family, who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Several gathered mourners wore sweatshirts bearing Mr Fungavaka's face and family and children held photos as they walked behind his coffin.

Mr Fungavaka has been described by colleagues as a quiet, humble police officer who was passionate about the job, especially making a difference in the Polynesian community.

- APNZ

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