Man in court over sergeant's assault

Otara man Walter George Tauatevalu appears at Manukau District Court this morning. Photo / Chris Gorman
Otara man Walter George Tauatevalu appears at Manukau District Court this morning. Photo / Chris Gorman

A man has appeared in court charged with attempted murder after a police officer suffered serious head injuries late on Saturday.

Otara man Walter George Tauatevalu, 36, also faced two counts of male assaults female when he appeared in the Manukau District Court this morning.

He was remanded in custody to reappear in the High Court at Auckland later this month.

Tauatevalu, who was wanted for questioning over the incident, handed himself into Counties-Manukau police last night.

He was originally charged with causing grievous bodily harm but that charge was upgraded today.

His occupation was listed on the charge sheets in court as youth worker.

Sergeant Simon Tate was alone when attacked on a routine patrol on his first shift back at work after a holiday to the United States and Tahiti with his partner, Lisa Ross, who is also a police officer.

He suffered serious head injuries that left him unrecognisable while speaking to the passenger of a car late on Saturday.

The 42-year-old officer received a report of disorder at the velodrome on Te Irirangi Drive in Otara.

He followed a car to nearby Sandrine Ave, where he stopped the vehicle and spoke first to the driver and then to a woman on the passenger side of the vehicle.

While he was speaking with her, he was punched from behind and fell to the ground where the assailant continued to punch, kick and stomp on the officer's head.

Two women, friends of the female in the car, had followed them to Sandrine Ave and approached the attacker to try to stop him, Detective Inspector Jim Gallagher said.

"They both stood between the assailant and the officer to endeavour to prevent any further harm coming to him. Even while they were present the assailant continued to rain blows to his head whilst on the ground."

The woman in the car drove off, and the attacker fled on foot.

After receiving specialist treatment at Greenlane and Auckland City Hospitals, Mr Tate was due to return to Middlemore Hospital last night.

He is suffering from a brain bleed, as well as many broken bones in his face, throat injuries and head wounds.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the incident was brutal and illustrated the reality faced by many officers as they went about their work "up and down the country".

Mr Tate's mother Sharon said the attack could have been prevented if he had been working with a partner.

"There was only the one man and he did come from behind Simon, so perhaps if there had been a second person they would have at least been able to warn him,'' she told Radio New Zealand.

"I believe that staffing difficulties make it impossible for that to happen on every occasion."

- additional reporting by Andrew Koubaridis of the NZ Herald

- APNZ

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