5 Feb 2014

Samoa prison murder ruling reversed

2:42 pm on 5 February 2014

A Supreme Court judge in Samoa has acquitted a man charged with murder over the death of a 38 year old mentally ill New Zealand man.

The victim, Hans Dalton, was found dead in a drum of water at Tafaigata prison on Boxing Day in 2012.

The judge, Lesatele Rapi Vaai, yesterday overturned the decision of the four person assessors' panel which found Jonathan Patrick Crichton guilty after less than two hours of deliberation.

Our correspondent says Crichton is already in prison serving a life sentence for another murder.

He had changed his original plea of guilty to not guilty, telling the court he was confused by police questioning.

Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says the victim's mother was present during the trial and she has accepted the acquittal.

"She was in support of Jonathan Patrick Crichton's change of plea from guilty to not guilty. She said after the ruling yesterday by the presiding judge; she believes that her son was not killed by Jonathan; it was the fault of the police at Tafaigata prison."

The presiding judge will deliver his reasons for overturning the assessors' verdict on Friday.