The family of a Kiwi who died in an Australian detention centre say he never should have been there in the first place and are still demanding answers at the end of a week-long coronial inquest.

Robert Peihopa, 42, died on April 4 last year at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney.

He had been detained at the centre for almost 10 months awaiting deportation on character grounds, after he was convicted of multiple criminal offences.

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Peihopa was transferred to Villawood after serving time in prison for reckless driving under the influence of drugs.

An inquest into his death has been held this week in Sydney.

The inquest heard that Peihopa was a long-time user of the drug ice and had used it both in prison and while at Villawood.

Autopsy results revealed at the inquest showed Peihopa died from "methamphetamine toxicity" that had complicated "ischaemic heart disease".

The inquest heard there was focal narrowing of 80 to 90 per cent in his coronary artery, ABC News reported this week.

The coroner has heard evidence this week including whether that narrowing, a physical fight shortly before Peihopa died and or his methamphetamine use contributed to his death.

The drugs were allegedly supplied to Peihopa by an associate who would throw them over the detention centre fence for him.

The manager of the detention centre's guards, told the inquest he was not aware Peihopa had been using drugs.

The findings of the inquest are not expected to be finalised or released for some months.

Soon after he died Peihopa's mother Hera was told by authorities that he died of a heart attack after a "sparring session" in the detention centre's gym.

Hera Peihopa is demanding answers about her son's death. Photo / Supplied
Hera Peihopa is demanding answers about her son's death. Photo / Supplied

But she does not believe his death was caused by his heart condition.

Hera Peihopa said when she saw her son's body he had black eyes, bruising and cuts on his face and a gash in the back of his head.

She suspects he died as a result of a fight and believes the Australian Immigration
Department is "covering up" the real circumstances.

At the inquest two men who were detainees at Villawood when Peihopa died gave evidence about hearing "loud noises" which they believed was the sound of a fight, on the
night the father-of-three died.

After the inquest concluded today Hera Peihopa said more than a year after her son died,
she still didn't have any answers.

"I want answers," she told the Herald in a statement.


"I want the truth."

She said with the help of her family and lawyers, she was determined to find out exactly what happened to Peihopa.

"Together we will find out the truth about why my beautiful son died," she said

"But nobody can answer why he was in Villawood in the first place."

Peihopa was born in Auckland in 1973 and moved to Sydney when he was 17.

"Robert was a great kid growing up - always into sport," Hera Peihopa said today


"But like a lot of Kiwis he decided to come over to Sydney. He arrived here when he was 17 and immediately started working with his dad.

"He called Australia home but he grew up proud of his Maori heritage.

"Over the years he had a range of good jobs, had a stable relationship with his de facto partner and had three beautiful kids.

"He worked hard and paid his taxes. He was a valuable member of the community.

"He stayed a New Zealander but he loved his new country, Australia. His life and his heart were here."

The inquest heard that while in Australia, Peihopa racked up an extensive criminal record - the majority of his convictions were driving offences including driving while under the influence of illegal drugs.


In 2002 the Department of Immigration warned Peihopa that his visa might be cancelled if he was convicted of a further offence.

Then, in January 2014, he was jailed for reckless driving, driving under the influence of drugs and other offences.

In July 2015 his visa was cancelled on character grounds.

From then on he was deemed to be an "unlawful non-citizen" and was detained at Villawood.

Hera Peihopa said it was a "terrible injustice" that her son was sent to Villawood after his prison sentence ended.

She said he was "virtually an Australian" and questioned why the Government there would want to "throw him out of his own country and away from his family".

"On top of that it costs the Australian taxpayer about $250,000 every year for every detainee in Villawood," she said.


"What a waste."

She called on the New Zealand Government to help her get the answers she was seeking.

"Surely Malcolm Turnbull can sit down with Bill English or whoever will be the New Zealand Prime Minister after the election this weekend and sort this mess out," Hera Peihopa said.

"No two countries in the world are as close as Australia and New Zealand. Our countries were forged in the Anzac spirit.

"So I think it is absolutely crazy for Australia to treat Robert like they did.

"It is an insult to him, to our family and to every New Zealander."


Hera Peihopa said sitting through the inquest, hearing details of her son's drug use and death was hard.

But she was heartened by the good things said about him.

"This week at the inquest into Robert's death we have heard that everyone in Villawood thought that Robert was a lovely and kind man, always ready to help others around him," she said.

"But I have also had to sit in the courtroom here all week and listen as people who work for the Department of Immigration and the people from Serco - that's the company that manages Villawood Detention Centre - try to pass the buck and say they were not responsible for Robert's death.

"They talk like a bunch of cold bureaucrats. They talk like they don't care.

"Well I do care. My family cares."

It is not clear when the inquest findings will be released.