New Year's victims bodies' released
The bodies of two men fatally shot on New Year’s Day have been released by Police after they were able to be examined by a forensic pathologist five months after their deaths.
The autopsy was ordered by the Coroner on the bodies of the two deceased men, Elisara Fata Lole and Fata Utufua.
“The bodies are now released, given the autopsies have completed,” Deputy Commissioner Auapaa’u Logoitino Filipo told the Samoa Observer.
He declined to comment on other bodies the Coroner had ordered to be subject to post-mortem examination.
A forensic pathologist team of eight from the People’s Republic of China arrived on a flight to Apia late last month, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
The accused in the case, Fa’alavaau Tai’i Pologa a man in his 60s, has been charged with murder but released on bail. He originally hails from Siufaga, Falelatai but had moved to reside in Afega, which is wife’s home.
The incident was alleged to have been motivated by revenge after the accused was involved in an alleged incident of road rage during which he was allegedly struck and sworn at.
The shooting took place shortly after the clock struck midnight, ushering in the new year of 2021.
The first victim from the New Year’s shooting tragedy was 35-year-old Elisara Fata Lole, the eldest of six children, a - carpenter and a father-of-four. His youngest child was his 10-month old daughter. He was shot at close range in front of his home. Elisara, his relatives believe, was killed in a case of mistaken identity.
The second person shot was a young Afega chief (matai), Fata Utufua, whom Police will allege was shot about 10 metres away from Elisara further down the road.
The shooting occurred in the early hours of New Year's day following a near-miss traffic accident just down the road in the village, which allegedly ended with one of the men swearing at the accused.
In March, the Samoa Observer revealed the national hospital’s mortuary has failed to properly store a backlog of bodies awaiting pathologist and Police investigations, potentially undermining criminal cases.
At that time, the Ministry of Police and Prisons expressed concern over the increasing backlog of deceased people at the morgue, which was moved to a 40-foot container freezer this January.
Health officials had become concerned about their ability to be meaningfully examined after they had advanced into a state of decay.
These concerns are outlined in a letter to the District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Viane Papalii from the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, obtained by the Samoa Observer.
“For your honour’s information, this matter resulted from an issue which was initially raised by the Ministry of Health after their examination of decomposed deceased bodies stored at the morgue in mid-2020 and subject of Police investigation,” the Commissioner wrote.
“This was due to the temperature of the morgue not being able to keep the bodies in [a] good state.
“As a result concerns were raised as to the evidential value lost with the decomposed bodies and also limited morgue storage space being taken up by the increasing deceased bodies due to uncertainty of time for an overseas forensic pathologist to conduct post mortems.”
After consultation with officials from the Health Ministry and the Office of the Attorney General, it was decided to relocate 15 bodies from the morgue to the freezer.
The Commissioner noted that all the bodies are the subject of ongoing Police investigations.
“The morgue at the Motootua hospital no longer provided the satisfactory temperature to keep the bodies in [a] good state before their scheduled post mortem,” the Commissioner wrote.