By: Vaimoana Tapaleao, Reporter, NZ Herald
Meliame Fisi’ihoi was sleeping in the sitting room of her South Auckland home when there was a knock at the front door.
Opening that door would be her final act; she was shot point blank through a crack in a side window – a bullet that might have been meant for one of her sons.
A source told the Herald Fisi’ihoi’s death was a case of mistaken identity – the gunman was heard calling out for one of her adult sons shortly before the fatal shot.
“They were knocking on the door. She got up and … just said that [her son] wasn’t there.
“They insisted and so she went to open the door and – bang.”
It has been a week since the 57-year-old mother and well-respected member of the Auckland Tongan community was gunned down in the early hours of the morning at her Favona home.
Days after her murder graffiti, including the words “Aroha Black Power”, was spraypainted on a shed next to the house.
The shooting happened at the same property emergency services were called to last month when a man – understood to be Fisi’ihoi’s son – was shot.
No one has yet been arrested for either shooting and the person or people responsible remain on the run, with police treating Fisi’ihoi’s death as a homicide.
Police were called to the house in Calthorp Close for the second time in a month just before 3am last Wednesday after receiving reports of a gunshot.
A Givealittle page has been set up to help Meliame Fisi’ihoi’s family. To donate, visit: For Our Mum Meliame.
It is understood the son was recently released from prison and is also the same man who was shot at the property last month. He suffered critical injuries but is recovering.
The source said a request had been made for police protection for that son so he could attend his mother’s funeral services this week.
“[He] is the actual person that they’re trying to get hold of – the people that are upset with him.
“He was a long-time gang member … but I think he switched [gangs],” the source said.
“He’s taking it a bit hard now because it’s cost his mother her life.”
Fisi’ihoi has been described as a woman who was known for her loving and caring nature and was heavily involved in the local Tongan community.
She was also an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.
“She was just an innocent mum. She’s got nothing to do with any activities of her son. That’s why it’s a shock.”
The source said those close to the family were trying to figure out why the alleged gunman decided to shoot.
“We’re thinking that the shooter is probably a prospect with the other group and probably panicked.”
Before the incident, extended family members from overseas had started to arrive in the lead-up to birthday celebrations for Fisi’ihoi’s mother-in-law, who celebrated her 90th birthday at the weekend.
The event, due to be held last Saturday, was cancelled as the family is now in mourning.
A resident on the street, who asked not to be named, said there was a lot of fear and frustration among her neighbours.
The first shooting incident was bad enough, but the second highlighted that police had not caught the initial gunman, she said.
“I only hope that justice will be served for the woman who lost her life and her family will one day find some sort of peace.”
Māngere MP Aupito William Sio said he knew people in the community were “genuinely afraid” but wanted to reassure them that there was now a high police presence in the area.
“This kind of behaviour is intolerable.
“The community doesn’t like it, we don’t want it and whatever excuses people might have for being involved in criminal activities, I think people needed to see there’s been a pattern so far – that family members have died as a consequence of the actions of others.”
He encouraged anyone with information in relation to criminal activity to come forward – even if it was anonymously.
“I know it’s sometimes difficult to tell on your relatives or people who are related to you, but … they’re not helping them at all, by hiding them.
“When we are silent on this evil that’s been committed, we are also participating and allowing it to happen.”
Counties Manukau acting Detective Inspector Shaun Vickers said police were still trying to identify the person, or people, responsible for Fisi’ihoi’s death.
“Police are keeping an open mind around the motive at this point and I would reiterate that anyone with information concerning this case should contact police.”
Anyone with information is asked to phone Counties Manukau Police on (09) 261 1321, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.