Babysitter's clashing accounts cloud trial
A babysitter who worked for the late Chief Executive Officer of the Unit Trust of Samoa, Sa’u Justina Fa’asamoa, has been questioned in Court over her conflicting accounts about whether Sa'u's husband physically abused her.
Meaalii Tala Tualagi took the witness stand on Tuesday in the continuing murder trial.
Sa’u's husband, Kolani Junior Lam, has been accused over the death of his wife in October 2018. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ms. Tualagi was one of a string of babysitters who had worked for the family in recent years.
In her evidence, she alleged she had seen Lam abusing Sa’u and, at one time, strangling her on a chair.
But the witness' credibility was called into question by defence attorney, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, who said that, in her first statement to police, Ms. Tualagi described Lam and Sa’u as a happy couple.
“[In] your second statement you told Police that Kolani beats up his wife and you have seen him doing this and, at one time, he threw Justina against the wall,” the lawyer said.
Leiataualesa questioned why she suddenly changed her statement. Ms. Tualagi said she did tell the Police. She insisted that she had forgotten the violent incident the first time she provided a statement but later recalled the matters while making her second.
The lawyer, unconvinced by the explanation, put it to the witness she had fabricated the alleged incident involving Lam beating up his wife. He told the Court that the witness, in making her first statement, spoke about Sa’u and Lam having a close and loving relationship.
However, when she had gone to Apolima to look after Sa’u’s children, she filed a second statement with Police in total contradiction to her first.
In her second statement to Police, the witness alleged that Lam would beat up Sa’u on many occasions and, at one time, strangled her on a chair.
Ms. Tualagi said she did not see Lam beating up Sa’u on the week leading up to her death.
“But he does beat her up almost everyday and I also hear them argue a lot,” she said.
She added that her second statement was in response to questions being put to her by police.
The lawyer asked if she had seen Lam beating Sa’u with her own eyes.
The witness replied: "Yes, I saw it many times."
She explained that Lam didn’t like Sa’u going to Apolima.
“He told her if she wanted to go then she can go but she is not taking the kids,” she said.
The lawyer then queried the witness about alleged strangulation of Sa’u by Lam.
Leiataualesa asked the witness if strangling someone would not be the first thing that comes to mind when she first made her statement.
“Is it not you that is lying and the reason why you never raised this with police when you first gave your statement,” asked the lawyer.
“No, Junior beat her up on one night they fought.
“She wanted to go see her family and I had discussed that with Sio on that day.”
The witness was asked why the couple would argue.
In response, she said most of the time Lam and Sa’u would argue over the children and the ex-wife.
At this point, the lawyer also put it to the witness that she did not mention these reasons to police when she gave her statement.
But Ms. Tualagi said she did tell the police.
The witness continued her evidence and alleged there were superstitious events that happened to Sa’u.
She recalled that there was one night after Sa’u almost stood on her kids on the bed while she was touching the wall.
“She then called outside that she will come soon.
“I then told Junior the next day and he asked if there was a traditional medicine that can cure it and I told him yes there is.”
The lawyer then put it to the witness to explain what she meant by superstitious.
She said it is when someone that had died comes back to show themselves to the living.
The witness added that when she told Sa’u about what she did the night before she said it must have been her father that came to tell her to go to see her family.
The lawyer queried the babysitter in an incident where Sa’u had walked on the road late at night and Lam had to take the car to go look for her.
The babysitter confirmed she is aware of the incident and stated Sa’u had argued with Lam and were drinking on that night.
The lawyer also put it to the witness if she agrees that most of the time the couple would argue is when they are intoxicated.
Ms. Tualagi said yes that is correct.
Leiataualesa also put it to the witness if she is aware that Sa’u would assault Lam when they argue and she would also damage things at home.
In response the witness said she is not aware of it.
Ms. Tualagi had worked for the couple for more than a year up until the day that Sa'u passed away.
The hearing continues.