Five Vavaʻu Police officers face punishment after breach of procedure led to escape of US murder suspect

    Five Police officers in Vavaʻu were facing punishment after they allegedly failed to follow accepted procedures for handling prisoners leading to the escape of the US murder suspect Dean Jay Fletcher.

    Police Commissioner Steve Caldwell said today a team of  investigators “identified serious shortfalls” while investigating Fletcher’s escape  and “police officers concerned will now be held to account through the disciplinary process.”

    Fletcher fled while he was in Police custody in Vava’u at about 3.30am September 29, 2016.

    He had been charged in relation to the death of his wife on 7 July 2016 after Vavaʻu Police found her dead body in their yacht.

    Police officers managed to track Fletcher down northwest of Vava’u leading to an almost 5 hour standoff, but it was eventually called off when Fletcher allegedly fired flares at police and threatened to set their boat on fire.

    Fletcher is currently being detained in American Samoa after he turned up at a marine patrol docking area.

    The Tongan government was in the process of applying to have him extradited to the kingdom to face his charges.

    “The Internal Investigation led by Professional Standards Unit Manager, Chief Inspector Meleane Taueli into the circumstances surrounding the escape from Police custody in Vava’u of Mr Dean Jay Fletcher, an American citizen facing charges of murder, has now been completed”, Caldwell said.

    “A thorough investigation carried out by Chief Inspector Meleane Taueli and her team has identified serious shortfalls in accepted procedures around management of prisoners, and police officers concerned will now be held to account through the disciplinary process.”

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