Distraught brother tells of pain of sister's death
The distraught brother of the former Chief Executive Officer of the Unit Trust of Samoa (U.T.O.S.), Sa’u Justina Fa’asamoa, has spoke of the difficulty in containing his anger after his sister’s death.
Sa'u's husband, Kolani Junior Lam, is on trial in the Supreme Court this week for charges of manslaughter; common assault; and conspiracy to defeat the court of justice.
Lei'ataua Lolani Evile, 46, is Sa'u's eldest brother and lives with his mother and family in Apolima-uta.
He told the Court that on the day she passed away, he had decided not to go and talk to her sister’s husband, Kolani Junior Lam.
On the Sunday morning that Sa’u’s family received the news of, Lei'ataua parked in front of the road next to Tisaan compound in Sinamoga, near Lam's home. His mother had gone to the back of the house to ask Lam about what had happened to Sa’u.
“I didn’t go to the back because I [would] not be able to contain my anger,” Lei'ataua told the Court.
“I was hurting and if I [went] to the house something might happen and I would not be able to prevent it. It was best for me not to see anything.”
The witness is the father of Carena Evile, the 12-year-old niece of Sa’u who testified earlier this week.
Lei'ataua said he had not been happy with Lam ever since an incident in which his niece, Talei Kelsall, had allegedly been strangled by the defendant.
He testified that when he picked up his niece Talei from school the day after the alleged incident, he asked what had happened.
“Talei just cried when I asked her,” he said.
“But Carena had already told me that Junior strangled Talei and threw her on the bed. I was angry about it because I trusted him with my children.”
Angry with what had happened to his niece, the father vowed his children would never again attend the Sinamoga home.
Lei'ataua was cross examined by a defence lawyer, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, who questioned him about what he had been told about Talei's alleged strangling.
He questioned the witness if he had checked Talei’s neck to confirm if she had any bruises. The witness responded that he believed what his daughter had told him and noted Talei had also cried.
“Children don’t lie,” he said.
“She didn’t just [cry] for nothing. She cried because she knew something happened.”
The lawyer again questioned the witness if he had asked his daughter, Carena, to describe how Lam had held Talei’s neck.
“Why do I need to ask her?,” the witness responded.
“I have children and, if it was one of my own involved, I wouldn’t have given him [Lam] a chance. I don’t need to check her neck.”
At this point the lawyer questioned the witness why the family had not filed a Police complaint against Lam at the time.
The lawyer said that Sa’u had told her mother if they wanted to press charges against Lam they should go ahead.
But the brother testified while the family had discussed the prospect of bringing charges, they decided against it out of respect for their sister.
The defence lawyer pressed the witness about why he did not file a Police complaint if he held genuine concerns for his sister's welfare.
“If you have children and a sister then you would feel it too – you feel hurt,” replied Leiataua.
“But I [couldn't] do that because she is my sister and when she says something then that is final…because I love her.”
The witness also said that although his sister told their mother to file the complaint against Lam in 2016, they knew in her heart she did not want them to.
The defence then raised an incident in which Sa’u returned from New Zealand with Talei before travelling to Sinamoga to collect his niece’s bags.
According to the lawyer, Lam will give evidence to say that he had confronted Talei in front of Lei'ataua on that day asking her why she said what she did to the family in Apolima.
It is Lam’s defence that Talei had confected the story of her alleged strangulation in 2016.
However, the witness said he did not get out of the car on the day that they went to pick up Talei’s bags. He also denied talking to Lam.
The lawyer put it to Lei'ataua he had in fact spoken to Lam on the day in question.
The lawyer added that even Sa’u’s family in Apolima did not believe Talei was strangled.
The witness disagreed.
“I believe in what the kids told me because he is someone like that,” said Leiataua.
“There were no such conversations between me and Junior on that day. I never got out of the car because I was still angry at him about what he did to Talei.”
The witness also spoke about Lam and how he should have given his niece Talei time to adapt to him being her father.
He said instead of forcing her to call him dad - Lam should have given her time so she could gain his trust before calling him dad.
Earlier, Sa’u’s brother said since his sister married Lam she rarely visited her family in Apolima.
He gave evidence that his sister Sa’u had often tried to conceal elements of her relationship with Lam with her family.
At one time, Leiataua said he went to collect a cheque book from Sa’u at her office in town; instead of presenting it personally, as she usually did, she had given it to her secretary.
“I asked the woman where Justina was and she replied that she was busy,” he recalled.
“She also said to me that she has [bruises] on her eyes.”
He left the office without seeing his sister.
Next to testify was Ann Trevor, who is Sa’u’s close cousin.
She described Sa’u as someone with a busy life, is active in the community, outgoing at work and supported of the Marist Brothers Association that she was part of.
Ms. Trevor said she grew up with Sa’u; they had gone to school together and lived together in Ululoloa before her marriage to Lam.
The Court heard that Ms. Trevor was the trustee of Sa’u’s estate in a document dated year 2011.
In 2015, Sa’u was her witness at her wedding and Lam was the witness for her husband, said the witness.
On the early Sunday morning 21 October 2018, she received a call from Sa’u’s number but which had been made by Lam.
“It was Junior: he told me that Justina has died; she had taken her life and she has been taken to the hospital,” she said.
“I thought it was a joke.”
She then left to pick up one of her cousins to confirm what she had been told at the hospital. When she arrived she recognised a dress on the deceased's body and knew it was Sa’u.
The witness said she also found an earring on Sa’u’s dress.
The hearing continues.