Through the eyes of Polenisia Ah kee Muliaga, her slain father's spirit is still very much alive. Afoa Frazer Ah kee was brutally murdered in June 2017 by an ex-partner who felt jilted. As the case reaches the Court of Appeal, his eldest daughter spoke to the Herald about how she remembers her dad every day. Chelsea Boyle reports
"I just want the whole world to know he was a loving father," Polenisia Ah kee Muliaga said of her father.
"He would do anything for us."
Afoa Frazer Ah kee, a devout Christian, absolutely adored every single one of grandkids - trips to the store to get lollies were common.
And he wouldn't hear a mean word about them; he was protective the same way he had been with his own six children.
The hardworking carpenter had first moved from Samoa to New Zealand to support his family.
While Polenisia was growing up, Ah kee had juggled the role of mum and dad - minding the cooking, washing up and being there for school drop-off and pick-up.
He did everything for Polenisia and taught her everything, he placed a huge importance on teaching his kids generosity, she told the Herald.
"The more we talk about my father, the more he is alive to us."
His memory is evident in other ways in her Ōtara home; his favourite photo has pride of place on the wall - it's the one which shows him meeting his first granddaughter.
Polenisia has also kept the victim impact statement she read aloud at Silapea Momoisea's sentencing at the High Court at Auckland last year when the killer was jailed for life.
There in black and white, the words she used to confront her father's killer.
Confront and forgive.
"The moment [in court] I said that I forgave I felt free for the first time," Polenisia said.
It was like a weight off her shoulders.
She smiled to think that that was what her father had taught her to do.
"I know my father is proud of me for doing that," she said.
Ah kee's wider family had also accepted the process of Ifoga in Samoa, where Momoisea's family had knelt in the rain outside their home waiting to be forgiven.
"I was crying the whole time," Polenisia said.
Some members of the family had felt deep anger, but her grandfather insisted they forgive.
Ah kee's body was repatriated to Samoa, where he is buried next to his mother, who died not long after him. Polenisia believes her grandmother died of a broken heart.
"I know she was sick. I know she had short-term memory. But I knew she could still feel."
His loss has also not been easy for his eldest daughter to bear after she found his body.
At one point, consumed by grief she felt so low she wanted to end her life.
But her 4-year-old son had woken up and stood in the doorway calling out to her.
"I think my son saved my life."
Celebrating her children's birthdays without their grandfather was still hard, they still kiss his photo before they go to sleep and ask after him, she said.
She recalled her son saying on his fifth birthday: "I just want to go see my papa, I want to tell my papa it's my birthday."
"That's how I know they have suffered too," she said.
She said she was so grateful to have the support of her family, especially her mother and her husband, as well as her church.
Ultimately she was able to forgive her father's killer because of her belief in God.
"He healed my heart. He was there every single day. Every time I cry," she said.
"Every time I am in pain. I might not see him but I can feel him.
"That's all because of my father he was teaching me God's way, God's love."
She hoped by sharing her story others people would realise there was always a way through dark times and it was always possible to forgive.
She also hoped that people would respect there were two sides to every story and that her father was not alive to tell his.
Like many things that was between him and God, she said.
The Court of Appeal: Killer 'blinded by love'
Silapea Momoisea, who was banished from her village for murdering a beloved family man in Ōtara, appealed her sentence this week.
Momoisea hid in the dark, waiting for Afoa Frazer Ah kee in his home, before stabbing him seven times with a large knife on June 26, 2017.
She was sentenced by Justice Mathew Downs to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 14 years and six months.
At the Court of Appeal hearing, her defence, lead by lawyer Rob Stevens, argued that Justice Downs "failed to give sufficient weight to the mitigating factors in this case".
Momoisea felt a deep sense of shame over what happened, she had been "blinded by love", he said.
Stevens argued the specific cultural circumstances, such as the shame she felt within her community, needed to better considered.
He also said she was struggling in prison because she can not speak English.
Junior counsel for Momoisea, Russell Nye-Wood, said her prompt guilty plea could also be reason for further discount.
Together with Stevens, he argued in favour of an overall sentence reduction of about four and a half years.
This was opposed by Crown Law.
Crown lawyer Andrea Ewing said many murders arose from a perceived slight and it was not something the law sees as excusable.
She said it was worth considering murder usually brings some cultural repercussion in respect to exclusion.
In respect to Momoisea's guilty plea she said the strength of the crown case was "plainly relevant".
It could not be said Justice Downs erred, she said.
Justice Ailsa Duffy, Justice Patricia Courtney and Justice Edwin Wylie reserved their decisions.
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