Samoan Government authorities refused to disclose valuable documents which may shed light on a Kiwi man's death in one of the island nation's prisons, a court has heard.

But in a revelation today, it appears the New Zealand pathologist who conducted the post mortem examination had already been given several pieces of evidence.

In December 2012, Hans Dalton travelled with his family to Samoa but suffered a mental health episode during a cyclone. His family sought help for the 38-year-old from local authorities when he became agitated.

Despite committing no crime he was taken to Tafa'igata prison, due to a lack of other facilities for mental health patients.

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The next morning, Boxing Day, Dalton's bruised body was found hanging upside down in a drum of water inside a cell.

Police initially declared the death a suicide but later charged an inmate with murder, whose conviction was later overturned due to a lack of evidence.

Hans Dalton's siblings, Nicholas and Natasha Dalton with lawyer Olinda Woodroffe, centre, want answers from the inquest. Photo / Peter Meecham
Hans Dalton's siblings, Nicholas and Natasha Dalton with lawyer Olinda Woodroffe, centre, want answers from the inquest. Photo / Peter Meecham

Several unsuccessful efforts have been made by New Zealand Police and the coroner's office to gather evidence from the Samoan Government over Dalton's death, including asking Interpol for assistance.

Since his death, efforts to hold an inquest into Dalton's death have been frequently delayed, while Coroner Peter Ryan also proposed completing the inquiry without an inquest.

Today, on the third attempt, the inquest finally began in the Auckland District Court.

But Coroner Ryan said there was a "great paucity of information that is reliable".

"If this death had occurred in New Zealand I would have reports from police and inspector of prisons, plus witness evidence," he said.

"However, this death occurred in Samoa, six years ago. Repeated requests have been made from me to Samoan authorities to provide any police reports [and] statements from witnesses with any actual knowledge.

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"Today, on the third attempt, we will proceed but in the context of having very little information about what actually happened."

Coroner Peter Ryan said there is a
Coroner Peter Ryan said there is a "great paucity of information that is reliable". Photo / Sam Hurley

No official information from any of the Samoan authorities, except the Samoan Ombudsman, was handed over, Coroner Ryan said.

"The [Ombudsman's] report is very critical of the way the prison was run in general and the lack of care provided to Dalton during his brief incarceration," he added.

The 2014 report said Dalton's death "reflects miserably on the capacity of Samoa Police to be sensitive and responsive to the situation of a mentally ill person".

A transcript was also provided of a disciplinary hearing of three police officers who were at the prison when Dalton died.

However, it was in the Samoan language and when translated the translator expressed difficulty with several phrases or words.

Sergeant Heather Ruddell said she sought the help of Interpol to get information from Samoan authorities. Photo / Sam Hurley
Sergeant Heather Ruddell said she sought the help of Interpol to get information from Samoan authorities. Photo / Sam Hurley

Sergeant Heather Ruddell told the court efforts to gather evidence were near impossible because New Zealand police have no legal jurisdiction in Samoa.

She said she sought the help of Interpol and the New Zealand Government but "could not get any information".

Forensic pathologist Kate White, who conducted Dalton's post-mortem examination before his body was returned to New Zealand, said her findings were the Auckland man died from drowning.

But she also found several abrasions and superficial lacerations on Dalton's body.

"Bruises are an example of blunt force injury," White told the court.

"To be clear, none of us were there, but some of the injuries could be explained … by some psychotic violent agitated behaviour."

Forensic pathologist Kate White conducted Hans Dalton's post-mortem examination. Photo / Sam Hurley
Forensic pathologist Kate White conducted Hans Dalton's post-mortem examination. Photo / Sam Hurley

However, she also considered it "less likely" that Dalton had suffered a heart attack and fell into the drum of water.

"I don't know how he got in the drum, I wasn't there," she said.

But, White continued, it remains a possibility Dalton, who was discovered with "frothy stuff at the mouth", was forcibly placed into the drum of water by someone else.

Despite a seeming lack of evidence, the court heard several documents had already been disclosed to White by Samoan authorities during her investigation, but the information failed to make its way to Coroner Ryan before today.

"You are the beneficiary of a lot of material from the Samoan Government that we have not seen," Christopher Gudsell QC, who is assisting the coroner, told White.

A senior New Zealand clinical psychiatrist, who treated Dalton before he went to Samoa, will also give evidence at the inquest.

However, his identity has been protected from public view for "justice" and "public order" reasons, Coroner Ryan ruled.

Dalton's family met with Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters in September this year in a bid to speed up the inquest process.

Shortly after the meeting this week's inquest, which is due to last four days, was scheduled.

In a separate civil proceeding, the Dalton family tried to sue the Samoan Government for $18.9 million over the death.