How far is a grieving family prepared to go to find closure and justice?
If you are anything like the Dalton family, the answer is not only will they go to extreme lengths; they will not take no for an answer. Especially when they believe there is something fishy about the way the case of their loved one has been handled.
Indeed, you don’t have to look further than Christine Wilson, her son Nicholas Dalton and their family’s quest to determine what happened to Hans Dalton to know that people who truly want closure and justice will not stop at anything. They will do everything possible – even when others would have simply given up and walked away.
Which is sad, isn’t it. These people have suffered enough. The death of a loved one, in this case, Hans Dalton, was difficult already as it was. There is no need to prolong their suffering.
Which means the relevant authorities are duty-bound to do everything in their power to seek the truth and find justice so that this poor family can finally find closure and peace.
Alas that has not been the case. Far from it. The truth is that since the day this newspaper, this writer in particular, received the call about Dalton’s death at Tafa’igata Prison on Boxing Day in 2012, the question of how he died and who killed him remain unanswered. Up until this day.
Which is not unusual in Samoa. We are aware of a couple of cases as such, including some very high profile hearings, which have resulted in nothing. What that means is that the people responsible for the loss of life, or lives, are still out there.
In the case of the late Hans Dalton, his family is not giving up. The latest chapter in this ongoing saga unfolded this week in Auckland where an Inquest has been held. The details are intriguing, especially if you’ve been following this case like we have.
For the uninitiated, Hans Dalton was found dead at Tafa’igata Prison with his head down in a large drum of water. Soon after, the Police claimed that Dalton had killed himself. Later, another prisoner was charged with murder. He was found not guilty.
Two years later, a Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma, raised questions about the Police officers at the prison in relation to their treatment of Dalton.
“How could the pitiful cries of an ill, for all intents and purposes totally trapped human being, yearning aloud desperately for the comfort of his wife and children, not be heard in the midst of assembled police manpower poised in readiness supposedly to keep the community safe?” Maiava said.
During the Inquest this week, interesting new evidence has emerged. For instance, a Pathologist, Kate White, claimed that Dalton was likely forced head-first into the gallon drum of water.
The Inquest has also been told about how the Samoan Government has been extremely unhelpful in the family’s mission to find the truth. Coroner Peter Ryan has said that Samoan Police had provided no information relating to Dalton’s death. That’s very sad.
It becomes even more interesting though. A key witness from Samoa did not show up in Auckland at all. Dr. Ian Parkin, a Psychiatrist who treated Mr. Dalton before his death, was due to give evidence at his inquest. Half an hour before he was supposed to appear, the New Zealand Coroner’s office got an email from the Attorney General’s office in Samoa.
The Inquest was told that Mr. Parkin was a key witness in a civil suit brought my Dalton’s family against the Samoan Government and therefore the Attorney General preferred that Dr. Parkin handed over a prepared affidavit as opposed to fronting up.
Now all things considered, no wonder Dalton’s family feels the way they do. Is this some sort of conspiracy to derail the course of justice? The point is that it is easy enough to understand why the Daltons believe there is something sinister about the way their loved one died. It appears to us that the relevant authorities are not doing all they can to get to the bottom of this case.
Which brings us to a call made by Nicholas Dalton on page 2 of yesterday’s Samoa Observer, where he appealed to none other than Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi for help.
“Your honour, through this statement I wish to encourage the Samoan Prime Minister and his government to show genuine Samoan humility and humble themselves and I truly hope they will find the strength and courage to do so,” Nicholas Dalton said. “In Samoa there is a well-known saying, ‘Fa’avae i le Atua Sāmoa’. It means Samoa is founded on God, but I can’t see God’s influence in any of this.”
But it’s not just Prime Minister Tuilaepa they are calling upon. The family’s lawyer, Leuluali’i Olinda Woodroffe, has also challenged New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern to come to the party.
“Jacinda Adern, I ask you as a mother, as I am too, step ahead and do what you can to get the information from Samoa and work together with women like us who want to make a difference in this world and the future,” she said.
Mr. Dalton’s mother, Christine Wilson, agrees.
“I cannot see that our government cannot do something,” she said. “Particularly with the treaty of friendship and all the aid that goes into Samoa. It’s a close relationship, it’s not just another country that doesn’t have that closeness. I expected as a citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand, and Hans was one too, that there would be more support from our government.”
This matter obviously will not disappear overnight. And we don’t expect anything less. Hans Dalton, like Siliva Auali’itia and Perry Tuilaepa and others, deserve justice. And their families deserve closure and peace.
Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!