Lam tells his story, denies killing his wife
The man accused over the death of his wife and the former Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the Unit Trust of Samoa (U.T.O.S.) has denied he killed Sa'u Justina Fa'asamoa.
Speaking for the first time since Sa'u's death, Kolani Junior Lam, told the Supreme Court yesterday he loved his wife and they had made plans to move to New Zealand this year, and have more babies.
“No your Honour,” Lam responded when he was asked by his lawyer, Lei'ataualesa Komisi Koria if he had killed his wife.
“She loves me and I love her. I don’t know what happened to her and I’m just as shocked as everyone else. By now we would have been in New Zealand with my wife to build a better life and have more babies.”
Lam, 39, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sa’u, common assault on his step-daughter Talei Kelsall and conspiracy to defeat the course of justice.
The defendant said on the night before Sa’u passed away, they drank at home, joked around, danced and told each other how much they loved each other. It was a Saturday night, 20th October 2018.
“We were happy,” Lam recalled the night before Sa’u was found hanging from a rope on a starfruit tree.
The couple were drinking with a groundsman, Sio Aukusitino, and Lam’s cousin, Junior.
But it was after the two men had left Lam’s home at Sinamoga when things got ugly. Lam said he and his wife continued to drink after the men had left when Sa’u started talking about her first husband, Johhny, who had passed away.
“I asked her if I looked good,” Lam recalled.
“She said it’s alright. I told her I want to be bigger for her and have a big build and stalky like Henry Tuilagi but she said to me that Johnny had good built.”
Lam said he was shocked about his wife mentioning her first husband’s name. He did not want to listen to her when she continued to talk about her first husband.
“I was feeling a bit off from her talking about him. I told her I don’t want to hear about her ex-husband and that is enough. I don’t want to talk about it.”
The defendant maintained they did not argue. Lam said he had started to walk away from Sa’u as he was feeling hurt.
He told the Court when they do not agree on something, one of them usually walks away.
On that night, he went inside the house to check on their children but by the time he went back outside, Sa’u was nowhere to be seen.
“I looked for her and then I saw under the starfruit tree," he said. "I could see the branches of the tree lowering and could also see Justina’s feet kneeling on the ground.
“I went to the tree and saw a rope around her neck and I was shocked. I grabbed her and tried to lift her body up to loosen the rope and at the same time, I was saying what have you done.”
Lam told the Court he tried to lift up Sa’u and make her stand but she fell down. He imitated how he tried to remove the rope.
“I tried to put my hands inside the rope that was around her neck to loosen it but it was too tight. I couldn’t untie the rope. I tried to help my wife.”
After attempts to loosen the rope without any success, Lam said he called out to his twin sons for help.
He said he attempted C.P.R. on Sa’u.
“I did the C.P.R. on her and it was the first time I have ever done it on anyone – I usually just see it on T.V.,” said Lam.
“As I was doing C.P.R. I realised she still had the rope around her neck. I then ran back in the house and got the other black knife to cut it.
“I must have cut her on the neck when I did that but I wasn’t worried about it I was just reacting fast to what had happened. I checked her pulse but it was too late, she was gone.”
Breathing heavily and shocked, Lam said he ran inside, woke up his twin sons to get help and call the police.
While he does not recall the exact words he had said to his sons, he is certain he had told them to go and get help from his family that live near their home. While his boys went to get help, Lam said he cried on his wife's body and thought about committing suicide.
“I was lost – I couldn’t think,” he said.
When his cousin by the name Ronald that lives infront of him arrived, he also attempted C.P.R. on Sa’u.
But it was too late, she was gone, he said.
Lam said he then asked if his wife’s body could be taken inside the house because he didn’t want to leave her outside on the dirt.
He also told the Court that while he wanted to take his wife’s body to the hospital, he knew he had to stay behind to look after his young children.
“Justina was gone and I had to stay home and look after our kids who are crying,” he said.
“It is the first time I have experienced anything like this and it is the most painful thing I have felt.”
The defendant’s evidence was consistent with other prosecution witnesses’ evidence that Lam had contacted them about Sa’u’s death.
He said he did not want to call Sa’u’s mother because he did not know her number but decided to call his wife’s closest friends, Talei Ah Liki, Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai and Ann Trevor.
He said he was unsure how Sa’u’s mother would receive the news.
In addition, he said he had drank on the Sunday, 21 October 2018, the day when his wife had passed so he can try to forget about what had happened. The father of two children to Sa’u, said he was unable to attend his wife’s funeral.
Asked by Leitaualesa why he did not attend the funeral, he said he was not allowed.
“The last time I saw my wife was on that day I found her hanging from the starfruit tree,” said Lam.
“I was not allowed to attend my wife’s funeral and her family had forbid me from going.”
Lam said he was sad about this because he was released so he could prepare for his wife’s funeral.
Part of his preparations was making badges for Sa’u and collecting fine mats for the funeral.
In his evidence, Lam accused Police officers of forcing him to admit killing his wife.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “I was later told I was charged with first degree murder.”
Defence counsel put it to the defendant that one of their baby sitters had told the Court she heard Sa'u telling Lam he might as well kill her.
In response, Lam said: “She usually says it when she is drunk. I noticed how strange it is to hear that from her.”
Asked if they had any plans, Lam said they did.
He said by this time they would have been living in New Zealand with his wife and children.
“We had plans to move to New Zealand and live there and have more babies,” he recalled.
“She said she would resign from her job and we would sell everything. On 16 October 2018 I had also been sworn in and received a certificate of citizenship for New Zealand. It was Justina that came home with the papers and applied for all of it. We wanted to go overseas and build a happy life and have more babies.”
The defence lawyer also asked Lam if he knew the reason behind what had happened.
“All I can say if that she loves me and I love her,” replied Lam.
“I don’t know what happened. I’m just as shock as everyone else. She didn’t say anything, we had looked forward to our plans of moving overseas.”
Earlier in his evidence, Lam spoke about the incident where he was accused of strangling his step-daughter Talei Kelsall.
He described their relationship as challenging.
Lam said he treats Ms. Kelsall just like his other children and disciplined them.
Some time in 2016, Lam claimed that he had told off his step-daughter for turning off the X-Box that his younger daughter was playing on.
But she had stormed off into the room, crying and slammed the door.
According to Lam, Ms. Kelsall is cheeky and he had often scolded her for answering back to her mother.
“I had held up her chin and told her if that is her attitude in Apolima don’t do that here,” said Lam.
“I can’t strangle her she is my wife’s daughter.”
The incident had caused disagreement between Sa’u and her mother, he added.
The defendant said Ms. Kelsall had later admitted to her mother that she had made the story up.
“I had told her (Ms. Kelsall) not to make unfounded accusations against me. I’m also a father and I have kids. They spread these rumours but they do not know how it affects us and what comes after that.”
He also denied forcing his step-daughter to call him dad.
“In her own time she can call me dad,” he said. "But there was one time she went to their family in Apolima and she came back calling me Junior but she had called dad before them. I don’t know what they are telling her but I got angry at her and said some harsh things to her and I later apologised to her about it.”
Lam who is a former employee of the Land Transport Authority, said he had resigned from his work in 2017.
He explained the decision to resign was after his wife told him to do so as her salary could cover for their expenses.
The plan was he stays home to look after the kids and have another babysitter to help him with looking after the kids.
Furthermore, he said there have been incidents with things going missing from their home because of the babysitters they had had.
Asked about allegations from one of the babysitter that he had strangled Sa’u and slammed her head against the wall, Lam denied this.
The defendant maintained that there was only one occasion that he had laid a hand on his wife.
He denied all allegations from other prosecution witnesses that he was an abusive husband and beats up his wife.
“Those allegations are not true your Honour,” he told the Court.
“Yes we argue and get into verbal exchange but that is just it. It doesn’t go further than that.”
Lam said that one incident where he slapped Sa’u on the mouth was because she had slammed the chair against the sliding door and broke it.
After trying to calm Sa’u down, the defendant said he slapped her on the mouth so she could snap out of it.
“That was the only time I had laid my hand on her.”
He said they had often disagreed on things but they usually talk over it and move on.
Lam described Sa’u as a loving mother, who loved her children including his children from his previous relationship.
He also spoke about Sa’u’s family. It was 2015 when he first met his wife’s family when he went to her grandmother’s funeral in Apolima.
He recalled he had felt nervous about meeting the family and Sa’u’s family were also surprised when she had introduced him.
In his evidence, Lam said he knew that the family was not happy with him and saw he that they did not accept him.
Despite this, Lam said they persevered.
“Her love for me was true and I also loved her,” he said.
“I told her I don’t want to be with her because of her wealth and money but because of the way she is. She makes me happy and I love her.”
Lam will be cross examined on Friday by the prosecution.