A man from Ma’ufanga has been sentenced to eight years in prison for attacking and killing a 67-year-old grandfather in the town.
Siosaia Tu Maile, 20, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter of Tuipulotu Afiulo Cook, also known as Ned Cook.
Mr Cook died in hospital following an assault in Vuna Road, in May 2020, Tongatapu Supreme Court heard.
The judge ordered that the final two years of the sentence be suspended for two years on conditions.
Sentencing, Lord Chief Justice Whitten said Maile was given credit for the period he spent remanded in custody between 17 May 2020 and 19 January 2021.
An autopsy report from New Zealand where the body of Mr Cook was later buried said the cause of death was the result of blunt force head injuries, consisting of one or more blows to the face causing Ned to fall and impact the back of his head. That impact caused a number of injuries including a skull fracture which in turn led to the acute bleeding, swelling and displacement of the brain.
What had happened?
The court was told that on 15 May 2020, around 3 pm, Ned finished up his volunteer work at the local Catholic Church and headed to the Billfish Bar and Restaurant for a drink.
At one stage, he was heard arguing with the prisoner.
Witnesses told the court Maile had punched Ned without any provocation on Ned’s part.
“The punch was so forceful that he saw Ned’s whole body lifted about six inches off the ground.”
“The punch evidently rendered Ned unconscious before he hit the ground. Witnesses described how he fell without ever trying to break his fall. The back of his head hit the road. His arms were outstretched beside his body. Blood trickled onto the road.”
According to the Crown eye witnesses, Maile then ran off down the street.
Victim impact statements
The Crown provided statements from Ned’s widow and grandson in New Zealand.
She told of how Ned spent most of his life in New Zealand, working to improve the lives of vulnerable youth, addicts, those with mental health issues and offenders.
Upon his retirement, Ned wanted to ‘give back’ to his homeland of Tonga. And so, in a bitter twist of irony, he returned and committed himself to helping those in need here.
Tragically, Ned’s death closely followed the passing of his daughter in January 2020 after a long battle with cancer.
His passing was followed shortly after by his widow suffering a heart attack, the pain of which prevented her from being able to cry for her lost husband.
Her grief and pain continue, with the rest of her life now only a shadow of what it was meant to be.
Despite the natural depiction of sorrow and loss and acceptance of the punishment which must be meted, both statements were remarkably tempered by forgiveness and hope for the Defendant’s rehabilitation and future life.