Coroner denies mother's request to bury her son

The Coroner has rejected an application by a mother seeking the release of her dead son’s body for burial since his untimely death three months ago. 

Vagalena Viliamu petitioned the District Court to release the body of her 16-year-old son, So’otaga Viliamu, who died in February and remains at a morgue in Moto’otua. 

In her ruling, the District Court Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i, presiding over the role of coroner, also ordered the Attorney General’s office that a post-mortem was to be conducted by 30 June, 2020.

The Coroner ordered the deceased mother to file an application for her son’s release for the purposes of burial. 

“And having received an updated report from the investigating officer, Senior Sergeant Amataga Potoa’e, on the status Police investigation, I do hereby order that subject to further orders of the Coroner: the application by the family of the deceased to release his body for burial is rejected,” the coronial ruling states. 

The Coroner further ordered a post mortem be performed by a pathologist to determine the cause of the boy’s death in accordance with the Coroners Act 2017. 

“The body of the deceased remains in custody of the Coroner and will only be released after the post mortem is completed or until the Coroner orders it released under section 20 of the Act,” the coroner’s report said. 

The Judge further added the mother and family of the deceased are to observe and respect the orders as their conduct “as their conduct may well be deemed as an attempt to pervert the course of justice.”

Judge Alalatoa’s outlined the reasons the application was rejected. 

“The investigating officer confirmed in his updated report that there was foul play in that there was criminal conduct in the form of assault on the deceased that may have hastened, contributed to or resulted in his death,” the report found. 

“Two suspects have been identified at this stage and criminal charges against them are pending finalization once the post mortem report is received. The post-mortem report is required to conclusively establish the cause of death of the deceased for the purpose of the coronial inquest into his death” 

The Coroner also noted the role of a delay in securing a pathologist for the case due to the COVID-19 lockdown and consequent closure of international borders. 

“Whilst this is acknowledged, the Attorney General’s office is urged to explore alternative options so that the post mortem is performed by 30 June, 2020.” 

The deceased passed away on 29 February. He was a twin to younger brother, Taloto, and third of seven children and a Year 11 student at the Alofi-o-Taoa College in Fatuvalu, Savaii.

In March, Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil said Police investigators are making inquiries into allegations that the teenager died as a result of foul play or having been deliberately harmed.

And despite Police hearing of an allegation that someone had sought to deliberately harm the child, an initial postmortem and the boy's death certificate did not suggest he died from anything other than natural causes. 

But after apparently uncovering inconsistencies during the course of their investigations, Fuiavailiili confirmed that they are requesting a coroner’s inquest to have a forensic pathologist examine the body. 



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