A man jailed for repeated violent attacks on women has posted onto Facebook photos of himself flexing his muscles - while locked up in troubled Mt Eden prison.

The prison's embattled private operator Serco confirmed the pictures were taken and posted while Steven Tongalahi was on remand awaiting sentence.

The images, which came to light after investigations by NZME News Service, show the 25-year-old with a cellmate making gang gestures and posing with his shirt off.

Tongalahi unsuccessfully argued he had shown
Tongalahi unsuccessfully argued he had shown "exceptional remorse" for his crimes. Photo: Facebook / Steven Tongalahi

Despite the photos, Tongalahi unsuccessfully argued he had shown "exceptional remorse" for his crimes when he was sentenced on Friday.


The case comes on the back of Corrections taking control of Mt Eden Correctional Facility from Serco amid allegations of fight clubs among inmates. The Prison Inspectorate and the Ombudsman are conducting a review of the prison.

Serco director of operations Scott McNairn said stopping the flow of outlawed items, such as cellphones which could be used to take photos and post them to social media, was a constant struggle.

"Preventing attempts to smuggle contraband is a very real and ongoing challenge in all prisons, where prisoners employ a variety of means, including internal concealment, and arranging for items to be brought in during domestic visits or thrown over the perimeter," he said.

Corrections figures showed the number of contraband communication devices confiscated at Mt Eden was soaring, with almost one found every three days over the last year.

That represents a big rise from two years ago when 35 phones or items of phone equipment were seized, about one every 10 days.

Mr McNairn said it was evidence the search regime was working. Additional security measures were implemented in July, he said.

On Friday Tongalahi was jailed for 51 months for a spree in which he viciously attacked three women.

Tongalahi's lawyer Jim Boyack told Auckand District Court his client had shown "exceptional remorse".


However, a probation report said there was a high risk of him reoffending and harming others.

Crown prosecutor Nick Webby said Tongalahi had a "complete lack of remorse and complete lack of any insight into his offending".

Judge Nevin Dawson agreed and said Tongalahi had tried to blame his victims for his violent outbursts.

The Te Atatu resident's offending began in July 2014 when he dragged his girlfriend off a bed and put her in a headlock after she refused to have sex with him.

Tongalahi's violence escalated three months later, by which time he had moved on to another woman.

After an argument about a dress he bought her he punched her in the face, breaking her jaw in one place and fracturing it in another.

The woman was hospitalised for three days and needed two plates in her face, held in place by eight screws.

She also lost four teeth, but it was not enough to see her cut ties with Tongalahi.

As police searched for Tongalahi, the pair fled to the Bay of Plenty. But the man's moods became unstable when he could not get access to cannabis.

Arguments came to a head when the woman said she wanted to return to Auckland.

Tongalahi punched her more than 20 times and held a pair of scissors to her throat.

"You pushed the scissors deeper and said you loved her," Judge Dawson told the court on Friday. "You told her if you couldn't have her, nobody could."

He jailed Tongalahi for four years and three months and highlighted his eight previous convictions for violence, but declined the Crown's invitation to impose a minimum period of imprisonment.

Tongalahi's timeline of events

July 2014

Tongalahi punches a woman for refusing to have sex with him. Before leaving the house he takes her eftpos card and withdraws $30 the next day.

Three days later, he grabs a wallet containing $40 from a man in the gaming area at Avondale's Spiders Bar and runs off.

October 2014

Tongalahi punches another woman in the face over an argument about a dress. Her jaw is broken in two places and she requires two plates and eight screws in her face to repair the damage.

Weeks later, the pair flee to Tauranga as Tongalahi attempts to evade arrest. After an argument Tongalahi punches the victim more than 20 times before threatening to slit her throat with some scissors.

November 2014

He swipes an iPhone from an unlocked courier van in Te Puke but dashboard CCTV captures the theft.

December 2014

He drives a third girl to a family gathering and becomes enraged when she voices her reluctance to attend. While in the car he puts her in a headlock and punches her in the face repeatedly.


2012/13 -


2013/14 - 79

2014/15 - 106

• The 2014/15 figure is for the year to April 30

• "Communication devices" include phones, batteries, chargers and sim cards