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Rumours of escaped prisoner's death unfounded - Minister

The Minister of Prisons, Tialavea Tioniosio Hunt, has dispelled rumours that a prisoner who escaped in the early new year, has died during his year on the run. 

Pati Chong Nee,who has been on the lam since January this year, when he made a dash for freedom at a Sunday church service at Tafaigata Prison, has been widely speculated to have died.  

“That is news to me but I do hope that nothing has happened to him," he saoid.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, the Minister said there were reports of Police heading to Malololelei last week, where Chong Nee was alleged to have been sighted. 

The Minister added that the last time the prisoner was on the run for almost a year he was assisted by members of the public who aided his evasion of capture by the authorities by harbouring him.

The Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil had recently confirmed that police were investigating the claim about Chong Nee.  

He said unless there is evidence to suggest that the escapee has passed away the allegation remains unconfirmed. 

The last evidence of Chong Nee being seen alive was in February where he was captured on CCTV camera attacking Chinese nationals in Vailoa. 

He was with fellow prisoner Aniseko Vaelei, who was recaptured days after the attack.

The pair escaped Tafaigata Prison together during a daring Sunday church service escape. 

It wasn’t until the church service for the prisoners ended that the prisons guard realised that Chong Nee and Vaelei are missing. 

Chong Nee, from Vaiusu, is supposed to be serving time for burglary, robbery and armed with a dangerous weapon. 

Another prisoner that remains at large is Suitupe Faamoe Paufai.

Paufai escaped in May while he was with a group of prisoners working on the new Tanumalala Prison, prior to its opening. 

The 59-year-old convict from Vailuutai, Faleatiu and Fagamalo Savai’I, is serving time for murder and possession of narcotics.  

The Minister of Prisons said Paufai is believed to be receiving assistance from some villagers. 

“Police are doing their best to recapture him,” he said. 

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