Peter Tulaga tells his story
Prominent commercial farmer, Peter Tulaga, accused of the attempted murder of Frysna Rimoni and facing other alternative charges took the stand yesterday.
He pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and alternative charges of grievous bodily harm, possession of unlicensed firearm and armed with dangerous weapon.
The 34-year-old male of Vailoa Faleata maintained he did not attempt to kill Ms. Rimoni.
Instead, Tulaga claimed it was Ms. Rimoni that attempted to commit suicide after he ended their relationship.
“She came to my house on that day and I had told her I don’t want her anymore,” Tulaga told the Court.
“I told her I’m done with you, I’m going back to my wife. I’m leaving you – you’re so evil and you blocked my wife and my children who are so dear to me. She then apologised and cried and I told her after you cry then leave.
“Don’t ever come back to my house or come by to see my mother or talk to my sisters.
“After we talked I lied down on the bed again and she was still crying. Then I heard her load the gun (that was on the table) and I sat up she had the gun held up her head and said to me if this is what you want, you want to go back to your wife.
“I told her no and I tried to reach out to take the gun away from Frysna but it went off.”
Tulaga said when the gun went off and shot Ms. Rimoni, he was in shock and panicked.
“I panicked,” he said. “It was the first time I felt scared of something. I stood there for about 15 seconds shaking, it’s the first time something like this has happened and it happened inside my house.”
He told the Court he thought that Ms. Rimoni was dead and left the room after the incident because he could not stomach the blood.
“I told my sister to take her to the hospital,” he said.
In addition, Tulaga said he went to Tafaigata Prison on the day of the incident because he wanted to provide a statement of what had happened. He was not aware that Prison was no longer under the Ministry of Police.
Tulaga disputed the evidence of a Correction Officer that he had told the officer they were playing with the gun with his wife but had accidentally shot her on the side.
“I didn’t say that, she’s not my wife,” he replied. “My wife is in New Zealand.”
After being told that he had to report the incident to Police, Tulaga said he went to his plantation at Fiaga and the pump action shotgun that was used in the incident was behind his Land Cruiser truck.
“The truck cover was opened and it must have fallen out of the car when I went to Fiaga,” he explained.
Earlier on Tulaga said the disagreement between him and Ms. Rimoni was because of Facebook.
Since he had filed for divorce in December last year with his wife, he had kept in contact with his three children living in New Zealand with their mother through her Facebook page.
The argument was one of many disagreements over Facebook messages and posts.
“If I was to put a number on the arguments we had we would hold the record for that many disagreements,” he said.
“As soon as she got home on that day she asked me about my phone. I was sad that all she wanted was to go through my phone when she arrived but I was tired.
“She asked me who I was talking to and I told her my children in New Zealand. I sat her down and I told her we need to talk.
“She promised me not to block my wife on Facebook but I found out later that she did. I told her before that she can go on my phone and block all the people that she doesn’t want me to talk to I don’t care who she blocks but don’t block my wife, it is the only way I can talk to my children. They are young and it is the only way I can communicate to them is through here, my wife’s Facebook.
“If my son had a phone I wouldn’t mind if she blocks my wife but they are too young to understand.”
He told the Court that his son was sick on the 14 January and had wanted to talk to him but was unable to.
He said it was a friend in New Zealand that had told him that his wife was trying to contact him but was unable to.
It was then that he realised that Ms. Rimoni had blocked his wife on Facebook, claimed Tulaga.
The disagreement over his wife being blocked from Facebook was the reason they argued inside the room on the day the incident occurred.
The Court heard that it was the reason why he ended the relationship with Ms. Rimoni.
Before the incident occurred, Tulaga said he had suspected that Ms. Rimoni was seeing someone else.
“On the 8 January her aunty was here,” recalled Tulaga.
“I slept at her house on that day and I had left my keys at her house. The next day I went back to her house at around 6 – 7 o’clock to get my keys and it was then I knew that there was someone else was involved in her life.
“On that day I saw the woman I did not want to see her then I beeped the horn and Frysna was shocked that I was there and not at the plantation.
“She had asked me why I didn’t call her but I told her it was urgent I had to pick up my keys and why I didn’t call her. I knew there was someone else in her life but she had lied to me.”
Tulaga said he had taken Ms. Rimoni to a resort and had fasted with her.
“We needed to fast and that is why we went there and there were a lot of things that we needed to talk about and I needed to forget it.”
Tulaga told the Court that he loved Ms. Rimoni and had plans to settle down with her once his divorce was settled.
He said he had also told his mother that he has someone else that he wanted her to meet.
“But my mother told me that once I finalise my divorce then I can bring the (divorce) paper (divorce) then I can bring Frysna in to meet her,” he said.
“She did meet my mother briefly afterwards. At the time Frysna was starting to trust me because she always used to go through my phone she eventually lost her phone one time and took my phone with her to work.”
During cross examination, lead prosecutor, Magele Leone Sua told Tulaga that the Police Commissioner had given evidence that he called him and told him he had shot his wife and killed her.
In response, Tulaga said the Police Commissioner was lying. He added he never calls Ms. Rimoni his wife, she is his girlfriend.
Magele also put it to the accused that the 12 gauge shotgun used in the incident was not registered and unlicensed.
She made reference to Senior Sergeant Tagaloasa Toddy Iosefa where he testified that the Police record shows that Tulaga does not have another firearm.
The only firearm he has registered under his name is a pump action shotgun but the ownership was transferred to another person in 2016.
Tulaga disputed this saying the 12 gauge Stevens shotgun was not the firearm used in the incident.
He explained he has a pump shot action gunshot, registered with Police.
“That was the shotgun that was used, the 12 gauge belongs to my father and it was not the one that was used,” he pointed out.
Tulaga was also asked of evidence by Ms. Rimoni that she did not load the gun, she had never touched a gun before.
In response, he said that Ms. Rimoni is a member of the Shooting Federation and knows how to load a gun, she loaded the gun herself.
“After she loaded the gun she said to me if this was what I wanted and I had told her you cannot do that here and I reached out to stop her but it went off.
Magele also raised it with Tulaga that he was the one that was suicidal and had sent suicidal messages to Ms. Rimoni with one of the messages saying “I want to die”.
Tulaga denied this and said that he did not say.
He reiterated that and the correspondences of messages being tendered in Court as evidence was “fake”.
However, Magele told the accused that he had accepted most of the correspondences with Ms. Rimoni but had only disputed the messages where he had sounded suicidal.
He denied this.
“No I’m not I have a beautiful mother to look after and I left my wife and kids to come back home to look after her.”
Tulaga was also asked about a laceration on Ms. Rimoni’s face.
“I do not know about that,” he said.
Magele said, “isn’t it the case that you struck her with the gun and when you did that she had put up her hand to protect herself and that is how she sustained the injury on her wrist?”
Again Tulaga said no.
“You struck her and as a result it caused the laceration on her face,” said the prosecutor.
“As a result of the injuries she lost her memory.”
Tulaga said no.
The accused won two awards during Agriculture show in 2016 and 2018 for having the biggest commercial plantation.
He left with his wife and children in 2017 for New Zealand when they won the quota.
When he was in New Zealand his mother had contacted him for money, Tulaga told the Court.
The Court also heard that during the time Tulaga left for New Zealand in 2017, he had received a letter from the Government raising questions about the 100 acres of land he had leased at Fiaga for his plantation.
“There were questions from Cabinet and Government on who was taking over the lease and yet there were a lot of people looking for lease,”Tulaga told the Court.
He then made the decision in 2017 to come back to Samoa and work his plantation so he could support his mother and family.
Tulaga said his wife did not want to return to Samoa. She wanted to stay in New Zealand to raise their children there.
Tulaga describes his plantation work as an “icon” and had posted photos and video from his plantation on Facebook.
He said he posted the videos and photos from his plantation to keep the Government updated on his work at Fiaga.
He also added that he wanted people to see his work, especially the "lazy people" so they can see how hard he works and how he earns money.
Tulaga is the youngest of 10 children.
Defense did not call the other two witnesses that had indicated to Court last week that they would call.
Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren presided the assessor trial.
Tauiliili Harry Schuster and Maureen Tuimaleali’ifano represented Tulaga.
Attorney General’s office lawyer, Magele and Quentin Sauaga were the prosecutors.
The matter has been adjourned for today for Justice Tafaoimalo’s summary and counsel to file their closing address.