Two men accused of the murder or alternatively manslaughter of a former New Zealand student who died in Samoa have walked free after all charges were dismissed.
Herman Westerlund and Su'apaia Savai'inaea - who faced murder charges with the alternative charge of manslaughter - have both been acquitted in Samoa's Supreme Court in relation to the death of former AUT student Jeremiah Malaki Tauiliili.
Tauiliili, in his 20s, suffered severe head injuries after allegedly being attacked after an earlier argument with one of the accused while at a nightclub in Apia on November 30, 2018.
Tauiliili was in a coma before succumbing to his injuries days later on December 5.
Samoan media reported the decision was heard in court yesterday and saw Justice Mata Tuatagaloa stating that there was not enough evidence to prove, without reasonable doubt, which action caused Tauiliili's death.
TV1 Samoa reported that the Australian pathologist who conducted a post-mortem examination on Tauiliili, Dr Paul Botterill, found and testified that the cause of the young man's death was blunt force head injuries - from either the impact of falling to the ground or being kicked or punched in the head.
Several witnesses have also previously testified seeing the two accused either punching or kicking the victim's head after he fell to the ground that night.
Tauiliili spent several years in New Zealand, where he studied at the Auckland University of Technology.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering Technology in 2017 before moving back to Samoa where he worked as a civil engineer for the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure.
'Judgment is not ours - we will leave it to the Lord'
A close family friend, who asked not to be named, told the Herald the first time any of the family had heard about yesterday's court proceedings was when local media outlets started to report the decision via Facebook.
"None of us knew anything - not even his parents.
"The first time I saw it was when one of our church members shared it on his Facebook page."
Tauiliili's father, local politician Sulamanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa, was contacted by TV1 Samoa Talafou after the decision was handed down and was shocked, as it was the first time he had heard about it, he said.
"He said he needed time to think before he could talk to us," the media outlet reported.
The New Zealand-based friend said despite the decision, some family members and friends were not surprised.
"To be quite honest, I saw this coming right from the get-go. It was so clear that this was gonna be a slap on the wrist."
"But judgment is not ours. We will leave it to the Lord," he said.
A third man, Rob Ash, was convicted of common assault in relation to an earlier incident involving Tauiliili that same night - in which Ash slapped him after Tauiliili allegedly swore at him.
Ash was discharged and ordered to pay $300 tala (NZ$170) in court costs in July last year.
Family members are now supporting Tauiliili's parents and close relatives; including his young son, who was 3 years old when he was taken to say goodbye to his father as he lay in hospital in the days before he died.
After Tauiliili's death, his friends and family called for local authorities to bring those responsible to justice and issued messages on social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag: #JusticeForMalaki