“Gutless act of cowardice” leads to 12 years jail for man who killed drinking companion

The Supreme Court has sentenced Sioeli Tapueluelu to 12 years jail for what Lord Chief Justice Whitten called a gutless act of cowardice.

Sioeli Tapueluelu. Photo/Supplied

The court was told Tapueluelu  punched Harilal Vamanrav from Ngele’ia on the head and then hit him with a wok.

“The defendant’s history and senseless outburst of violence in this case, resulting in the death of an innocent young man, make him a serious danger to society, which this Court must strive to protect,” Lord Chief Justice Whitten said.

The accused changed his plea to guilty on the day of his trial, on July 19.

Tapueluelu attacked Vamanrav without warning on the evening of March 8, 2020 in the house of Semisi Tapueluelu, where the defendant lived.

They were drinking and about midnight Vamanrav went to the kitchen to prepare food.

Sioeli Tapueluelu followed him. They were then heard arguing about a t-shirt. Tapueluelu suddenly hit Vamanrav in the back of the head and knocked to the floor.

He then struck him with a wok and punched and kicked him in the head.  Tapueluelu  then hit Vamanrav with a small steel stove.

Semisi Tapueluelu tried to intervene but the defendant hit him and knocked him to the ground. Semisi then alerted his neighbour, a police officer, about the assault.

The officer called for help and walked towards Semisi’s house and caught the defendant on the driveway. When the officer went inside the house, he found Harilal unconscious and unresponsive but still breathing.

Harilal died the next day from severe swelling of the brain caused by the assault.

Lord Chief Justice Whitten said the defendant’s criminal history demonstrated a “dangerous propensity for violence.”

The accused was jailed in New Zealand for his part in assaulting a man. Tapueluelu  and a companion beat the man and struck him with a hammer so badly that he was hospitalised for nearly a week.

He was subsequently deported to Tonga.

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