The charges against a man with murdering promising Mount Roskill rugby player who dreamed of being a police officer have been dropped with a judge saying he was acting in self-defence.

The decision has left the victim's family shocked, devastated and feeling like justice will never be done for their boy.

But an appeal may be imminent with the Crown indicating it will be referring the case to the Crown Law Office for consideration.

Rima Fernando Sikei, 21, was stabbed to death on December 7, 2018 just a minute from his family home.


Sikei had been out with friends and was on William Blofield Ave when an altercation erupted.

During the fracas Sikei was stabbed.

Police arrived within minutes but Sikei was already dead.

Joshua Tongia was charged with murdering Sikei and attempting to murder Taufa Siu.

However, today the charges were dismissed in the High Court at Auckland by Justice Rebecca Edwards deemed his actions on the night Sikei died as being self-defence.

Tongia - who has paranoid schizophrenia - had earlier been found unfit to stand trial after the court heard he had been assessed as having "extremely low intellect with extreme deficits in verbal reasoning, vocabulary, speed of processing information and basic comprehension".

The extent of his mental impairment is such that even with the provision of a communication assistant in court he could not effectively participate in his own trial process.


After an involvement hearing Justice Edwards ruled that the charges be dropped.

The court heard that following an earlier altercation on the night of the fatal attack, Tongia's older brother smashed a vehicle that Sikei was in with a baseball bat.

Others in the car started to beat the brother and Tongia came out of his house "holding at least one, but possibly two, large kitchen knives".

Police said he stabbed Sikei once to the shoulder and once to the left-hand side of his chest.

"The chest wound was fatal, and Rima died at the scene," said Justice Edwards.

Tongia then turned to Siu who was still beating his older brother.


He stabbed Siu three times in the back, once in the head, and once more in the front when the younger man turned around.

Tongia then hid the knife in his bedroom and fled the scene.

"He returned the next morning and directed police to the knife in his bedroom," said Justice Edwards.

"He explained he went out to help (his brother) and he was waving the knife around in the dark."

In an interview with police later, Tongia explained his actions.

"I took the knife and told him to leave, we started fighting and they wouldn't listen and I said I would use the knife," he said.


"I just went all over the place… I was waving the knife all over, it was too dark… was just swinging."

Justice Edwards said that in an ordinary criminal trial, the Crown would have to "disprove self-defence beyond reasonable doubt before a conviction on the murder and attempted murder charges could be secured".

"At the involvement hearing however, the Crown must only do so on the balance of probabilities," she said.

"On this basis, I directed that the Crown had to disprove self-defence on the balance of probabilities. That required consideration of the circumstances that existed on the night in question."

After hearing evidence from witnesses Justice Edwards said she was satisfied Tongia was the man responsible for stabbing Siu.

No one saw firsthand what happened to Sikei.


"There is no direct eyewitness testimony of the stabbing of Rima," said Justice Edwards.

"Nevertheless, I am satisfied that the combination of the evidence is sufficient to establish that it was Joshua who also stabbed Rima.

"In sum, I find that Joshua stabbed both Rima and Taufa. The question is whether he did so in defence of himself or another."

Rima Sikei's funeral in Mount Roskill. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Rima Sikei's funeral in Mount Roskill. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Justice Edwards said Sikei was part of a group who had been drinking "heavily" and went "looking for a fight".

"Whether directly involved or not, Rima was part of the group," she said.

"Joshua was acting in response to the situation unfolding before him... I find that Joshua was acting to defend (his brother) and possibly himself, at the time of the stabbing."


Justice Edwards said the attack on Tongia's brother was "vicious".

"He was being punched and kicked to the head by multiple people while lying on the ground," she said.

"Just one of those kicks or punches could have resulted in him losing his life and it is no exaggeration to say that there was a real and present risk to him at the time.

"I determine that Joshua Tongia was acting in self-defence, and defence of another at the time he stabbed Rima Sikei, and at the time he stabbed Taufa Siu.

"He was not, therefore, involved in the acts that form the basis of the charges of murder and attempted murder… The charges of murder and attempted murder are accordingly dismissed."

Justice Edwards delivered her decision today before Tongia and members of his family.


Members of Sikei's family were also present and were "shocked" with the outcome.

His brother Semisi Sikei spoke to the Herald this afternoon.

"After today's decision my family walked out of the courtroom shocked," he said.

"We were also crying at the fact that the guy who killed my brother is now a free man.

"When we first found out that Joshua was found unfit to stand trial we were ***sed off. Why do people who (have mental issues) have the right to murder then walk free?

"The system is a joke."


Semisi Sikei said his brother's death continued to haunt his family.

"We all still hurt to this day and will forever hurt," he said.

"The loss of Rima has affected my family so much. Both of my parents will never be the same.

"I would like to let the Tongia family know that you're lucky you have your son or brother home.

"You now can talk, laugh, eat and spend time with him. We will never be able to do that again - and that's on Joshua.

The Herald has learned the Crown will be referring the outcome to Crown Law to consider an appeal.


Semisi Sikei hoped that would go ahead.

He vowed he would not give up on making things right for his brother and has set up a Facebook group so other families who felt failed by the justice system could reach out.

"I just want to say that it's not over it yet. We will continue to fight until justice is served," he said.

"We have been quiet since Joshua took my brother's life.

"Now it's time to make noise."

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