Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Family confront dad's killers in court

Widow Cally Ruahe and family travelled to Tonga to see two local police officers sentenced for manslaughter. 
Photo / Chris Gorman
Widow Cally Ruahe and family travelled to Tonga to see two local police officers sentenced for manslaughter. Photo / Chris Gorman

Almost two years have passed since Auckland constable Kali Fungavaka was killed.

But as two Tongan policemen found guilty of his manslaughter sat in the courtroom, there was no escaping seeing his face - on his four young children.

"I just wanted everyone, including the accused, to see that these are the lives that have been affected," Cally Ruahe, Mr Fungavaka's former wife and mother to his five children, said.

Ms Ruahe and four of her and Mr Fungavaka's five children travelled to Tonga last week, where two local police officers were due to be sentenced in the Tongan Supreme Court.

However, the sentence was delayed and will be given today, by Justice Charles Cato.

Earlier this year, Tongan police inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia and constable Salesi Maile were found guilty of manslaughter after beating Mr Fungavaka while in a police cell in August 2012.

Mr Fungavaka had been in the country for his grandfather's funeral and was in police custody after being arrested for minor drunkenness outside a club in Nuku'alofa.

Another local officer, Fatai Faletau, was found guilty of the lesser charge of assault on Mr Fungavaka and will be sentenced later this month. Speaking to the Herald at the family home yesterday, Ms Ruahe said they were hoping the officers would be given a just sentence so they could finally have closure.

It had been a difficult decision to take the children, aged between 9 and 14 years, last week. But she decided to do so, so they could understand what had happened to their father and so the two policemen could see how their actions had hurt others. The children's striking resemblance to their father also meant the officers would have to look into the eyes of the man who had died by their hands.

How the saga unfolded

August 17, 2012: Counties Manukau policeman Kali Fungavaka and a relative arrested for minor drunkenness and taken to a police station in Nuku'alofa, Tonga. Mr Fungavaka suffered head injuries that night while in custody.
August 23, 2012: He dies in hospital.
June 6: Police inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia and Constable Salesi Maile found guilty of Mr Fungavaka's manslaughter.
July 3: The two officers' sentencing is adjourned.
Today: Police officers to be sentenced.

- NZ Herald

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