Rapist, robber, serial prison escapee: Aussie couple fell victim to Samoa's evil face

By Debbie Schipp

Serial criminal and three-time prison escapee Lauitiiti Tualima is behind bars, for now at least. Photo / Channel 9
Serial criminal and three-time prison escapee Lauitiiti Tualima is behind bars, for now at least. Photo / Channel 9

It's billed as an idyllic South Pacific tourist paradise, but Australian couple Angie Jackson and Tommy Williams know the danger that lurks beneath Samoa. And if that evil has a face, it's that of Lauitiiti Tualima.

It's the face that left them lucky to escape with their lives when an on-the-run Tualima - known as Samoa's most dangerous criminal - raped Angie while Tommy was forced to watch on their honeymoon last September.

"I was just like, this can't be the way they die, I want to see my family again," Angie tells reporter Liam Bartlett in a story to air on 60 Minutes on Sunday.

The Tasmanians had almost finished their honeymoon on September 24 last year, waking at 2am to head to the airport to return to Australia when Tualima appeared in their hotel lounge room at Samoa's Lupe Sina Tree Resort.

He was armed with a pair of scissors, and bound, gagged and raped Angie while Tommy - also bound - watched on helplessly.

Tualima then stole the pair's money and belongings, and fled when one of the hotel staff came to check if they still needed their taxi to the airport.

The pair - who saw Tualima's face as he forced them to delete their iPad photos - identified him from a series of photos shown to them by local police. Tualima was eventually arrested, charged with a range of offences including rape and robbery, and returned to jail.

They returned to Australia, devastated, and tried to deal with the horror.

The realisation Tualima was not only a serial criminal, but a serial prison escapee, who had been on the run when he attacked Angie and Tommy, and has since escaped twice more to offend again, made it worse.

While he is back in prison, the pair wonders for how long.

Bartlett travelled to Samoa to watch Tualima go to court on June 27 and eventually plead guilty to the attack. But he discovered a pattern of escape and prison security so flawed that it should act as a warning to all tourists.

"Tualima is the axle on which this story hinges, because he is the most prominent visual example of it," Bartlett says.

"The point is that there are other escapees, because of the way the whole system is.

"The first time he escaped the prisons minster said "oh yes the guards were incompetent" - and it's kind of 'well, yeah, what about the second and third time?".

Samoan nightmare: Angie Jackson and Tommy Williams. Photo / Channel 9
Samoan nightmare: Angie Jackson and Tommy Williams. Photo / Channel 9

Tualima had escaped jail - where he had been given a lengthy sentence for crimes including rape, robbery and violence - and been on the run for about a month before his attack on Tommy and Angie last September.

"Yet after that he was able to escape two more times," Bartlett says.

"So he escaped once and attacked Tom and Angie. He was caught for that, sent back to jail, and escaped again early this year - only to be caught again after in which he stole about $50,000 in cash.

"And the third time he escaped - just three months ago - he almost killed a Chinese businessman. He hit him over the head with a machete and left him for dead."

Tafaigata prison is Samoa's highest security prison, but it seems it can't hold Tualima, or others.

"The thing is, it's not just him. It's the whole place. That's why we are saying this is a real warning signal, because tourists don't know this about Samoa's prison system ... or what there is of it ... it's a bit grandiose to call it a system," says Bartlett.

"This is their main prison on the island. And he (Tualima) and lots of others are getting out of there."

Australia has given about $15 million over seven years to the Samoan Australian Police Program, and Bartlett says the Samoan President's answer to where the money has gone, and 'why can't you just build a decent fence around a prison?' seems 'unfathomable'.

Happier times: Angie Jackson and Tommy Williams. Photo / Supplied
Happier times: Angie Jackson and Tommy Williams. Photo / Supplied

"They seem to have all the answers and none of the solutions," he said.

"And in the meantime Tualima and his other dangerous mates, who are supposed to be in a maximum security facility are just free to sort of wander off, and tourists just don't know this."

Angie and Tommy's biggest relief since the ordeal has been not having to go back to Samoa for their attacker's court case.

"They're too traumatised to go back," Bartlett said.

"Initially he pleaded not guilty, and didn't want a lawyer. Until he agreed to get a lawyer and then changed his plea to guilty, there was a prospect he could have been asking them questions in the witness box, because he was representing himself.

"That added to their trauma about the possibility of going back."

He says the pair are "massively, massively relieved, but they're still in a bit of a halfway house there".

"The thing is, he will get sentenced on July 22 and he will cop a huge sentence - on top of the 20-odd years he has already got, but it doesn't mean anything if there's a chance he can just walk out again," Bartlett said.

"What they are concerned about is not how much he gets - they are pleased that technically he will be in jail for the rest of his life, but what sort of jail, because that jail is not going to hold him."

Tualima showed no remorse in court. "When he was pleading guilty he was laughing," says Bartlett.

"To be fair to the Samoans, in any jurisdiction he would be a serious criminal. He has a serious criminal mindset. He knows nothing else."

- news.com.au

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