Cowardly attack against security guard caught on camera

A man found guilty of attempting to murder a sleeping security guard at Vaitele has been jailed for nine years. 

The crime was caught on camera.

The sentence for Atapana Taliaoa, 29, of Vaitele-uta, was handed down by Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke. 

Taliaoa was found guilty by a panel of assessors for the attempted murder of a 37-year-old male who was the watchman of Annie’s Shop at Vaitele in January this year. 

Justice Leiataualesa said the offending being caught of camera, was a rare one in Court. 

“Very often, all we have is the oral testimony of witnesses, crime scene photographs and similar evidence but not the footage of the actual assault,” he said. 

“In your case, however, the Assessors as well as I had the opportunity to observe you and your actions that morning. 

“The video footage is confronting in showing your absolute disregard for the welfare of the victim and for human life. 

“It was disgraceful and cowardly conduct on your part and for which you should be ashamed.”

The Court heard that while the victim was asleep and vulnerable on the bench, Taliaoa stood above his head. 

“You attacked him with a piece of timber in circumstances in which he had no opportunity to defend himself from your cowardly acts,” said the Judge. 

“You took short breaks between your assault of the victim, watched him and when he stirred, you would strike the victim again. 

“You showed no sense of human decency. It is difficult to understand your cruelty and the heartlessness that you showed that morning to the victim.”

About the defendant, Justice Leiataualesa pointed out it is telling that he had a supportive reference in 2015 from his brother as opposed to a recent reference from your uncle in 2019 which says that he is troublesome. 

He said it is sad that the defendant’s life has taken a turn for the worse. 

Taliaoa had completed school at Leifiifi College and started as an apprentice carpenter.

The defendant did not have any reference from his village mayor, church or family members. 

They have also not been present during the course of the trial or during sentencing. 

“This, for many young men, is far too common when they come before the Courts,” said Justice Leiataualesa. 

“It is important in my view that as a society founded on the pillars of faith, family and village that our churches and pastors, our families and our village leaders identify and support young troubled men affected by alcohol and the wrong circle of friends from falling into the life that you have found yourself Atapana. 

“Too many young lives that we see before the Courts every day are wasted in this way, with alcohol far too often being a contributing cause of offending. 

“The challenge of young men like yourself turning to alcohol and being influenced by the wrong circle of friends and ending up before the Courts is not simply a matter for the Courts and Police to deal with.”

 In addition, he said it requires those around these young men to support them, guide them and help them. 

“This is because when it ends up before the Courts, in too many cases, it will be too late to spare them from imprisonment when the offending is serious as in your case Atapana.”

 According to a summary of facts, on Saturday 19th January this year, the victim started work at Annie’s Shop at Vaitele at about 5.00pm cooking BBQ.

At about 1.00am the following morning, he took on the role of security guard for the shop. 

In the course of his shift, he became tired and went to sleep at sometime around 5.45am. 

As was captured on the security camera footage, the victim slept on the bench at the shop and Taliaoa was pre-armed with a piece of timber. 

He gave a security camera at the shop a defiant and rude gesture and then went and moved the security camera so it was not facing where the victim was sleeping. 

 The Court heard that he did not realise that there was a second security camera in the area that was also recording where the victim was sleeping. 

He then struck the victim 8 times with the timber, the first strike as he was sleeping with two further strikes in quick succession. 

The various strikes struck the victim’s head and upper body and the 8 strikes were inflicted in the period of just under 2 minutes. 

As a result of the defendant’s actions, the victim sustained a laceration to the scalp, laceration to the lower jaw and a fracture to the jaw.

Taliaoa was represented by Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio while Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Quentin Sauaga was the prosecutor. 

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