Cop denies claims, alleges collusion

By Pai Mulitalo Ale 15 July 2016, 12:00AM

A suspended Senior Sergeant accused of assaulting and torturing Police officers under his watch has strongly denied the allegations against him.

Liliolelagi Lafi Matautia rejected the claims when he gave evidence during his trial in the District Court. 

The Sergeant faces six charges of assault to which he has pleaded not guilty. The charges stemmed from his time at the Maritime division of the Police. Liliolelagi is represented by lawyer, Donald Kerslake while Lui Sio is the lawyer for the Prosecution. Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai is presiding.

In his evidence, Liliolelagi protested his innocence, maintaining that he did not assault any of his officers. In fact, he claims that there was collusion among the officers to frame him.

At that point, Judge Vaepule asked the defendant why the officers would collude to the frame him. Liliolelagi said because the officers thought that he was teaming up with their boss, Superintendent Tagaolo. 

Away from that, he said they wanted the position that he was occupying.

 “I also read all their statements,” he said. “They are all the same, it’s like copy and paste.”

Liliolelagi recalled one of the incidents in August 2012. When he arrived at work, he said he joined one of the officers on the dock smoking before they entered the Nafanua.

“We walked inside and I heard noise coming from the bottom of the boat and when we got closer the boys were playing chess and they were laughing,” said Liliolelagi. 

Liliolelagi said he laughed and continued walking down the steps. He said he tapped one of the boys on the head.

“I didn’t know he was not in a good mood. He turned around and swore at me but I didn’t take it seriously,” Liliolelagi added. 

Asked why? 

Liliolelagi responded that is the nature of their work they joke around and they laugh at each other so he thought it was no big deal.

He said he took a chair, sat down and then he tried to change the subject. So he asked one of the alleged victims Talie Utulaelae why he didn’t do what he had told him to do the other day. 

But Utulaelae reacted angrily and said his parents did not send him there to do anyone else’s chores. 

Liliolelagi said he was embarrassed by Utulaelae’s tone because there were other officers there.

 He got up and tried to get away because he did not want to cause any trouble. 

But that was not Utulaelae’s intention. 

“I got up and asked him to move away because I wanted to go to my room but he didn’t want to, so I pushed him away and he punched me,” said Liliolelagi. 

Liliolelagi said Utulaelae continued to swear at him and came to him with a knife. 

The defendant said he wrote a report to their superintendent about what had happened; he said Tagaolo also read out his report to Utulaelae that day and settled the issue between them. 

“We were told that both of us could be charged with what had happened. We settled our differences that day and I thought that was it.”

Judge Vaepule asked the defendant if he knew what the charges would be, if the matter had been reported. 

Liliolelagi said they could have been charged with assault and being armed with a dangerous weapon. 

During cross-examination, Prosecution Lucy Sio reminded the defendant that tapping someone on the head and slapping are two different things. 

She said there were witnesses who saw him slap Utulaelae’s head, which started the dispute. 

Liliolelagi denied this, saying he only tapped his head. The matter has been adjourned for final submissions on 5 August 2016. 

By Pai Mulitalo Ale 15 July 2016, 12:00AM

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