12 Dec 2018

Samoa’s Attorney General didn’t want witness to give evidence

From Checkpoint, 6:21 pm on 12 December 2018

A coronial inquest almost ground to a halt today after a key witness from Samoa failed to show up.

Hans Christopher Dalton

Photo: Supplied

Hans Christopher Dalton was found dead in a 44 gallon water drum in his Tafa'igata prison cell on Boxing Day in 2012.

Dr Ian Parkin, a psychiatrist who treated Mr Dalton before his death, was due to give evidence at his inquest this afternoon.

But half an hour before Dr Parkin was supposed to appear, the coroner's office got an email from the Attorney General's office in Samoa.

Coroner Peter Ryan said the email noted Mr Parkin was a key witness in a civil suit against the Samoan Government.

Mr Dalton's family is currently suing the government over his death.

The coroner said the Attorney General preferred Dr Parkin hand over a prepared affidavit without cross-examination.

Coroner Ryan said with no jurisdication to force witnesses to appear, he was left with no choice but to move on to the next one.

Mr Dalton's mother, Christine Wilson, was up next and told the court about her son.

"Hans is a gentle, sensitive, loving, caring, generous soul who touched the lives of many in a positive way."

Mr Dalton had been holidaying with family when Cyclone Evan struck and he lost track of his medication.

His family sought help from officials, who put him in a prison cell when he became aggressive in a temporary mental health unit.

The inquest has heard Mr Dalton's psychiatrist gave him the all clear to travel to Samoa without consulting its mental health services.

His mental health nurse, Mark McKenzie, conceded it would have been helpful to have contact with Samoan services.

But he said it was hard to say how it would have changed the outcome.

"Hans was well when he went and I think he was with his family. His risks were decreased and he was compliant with his medication to a point. 

"I don't know whether alerting Samoa to the fact he was coming there would have changed anything."

Ms Wilson said she didn't second guess Mr Dalton's medical carers, assuming their advice could be trusted. 

She said she tried to see her son's body as soon as she touched down in Samoa, having planned to meet her family over there, but was met with resistance by Dr Parkin.

"When we arrived Dr Parkin said that the man that had the only key to the room where Hans' body was had gone home and it was a long way away and would take a long time for him to come back."

Ms Wilson the psychiatrist tried to keep her away from her son's body.

"From the outset it was very clear that Dr Parkin was trying to put me off seeing Hans' body. I said that we would wait. 

"While we were waiting, which seemed quite a long time, Dr Parkin was discouraging me from seeing Hans' body, saying that it was not in a good state, but I said that I wanted to see him."

Mr Dalton was found with bruising and abrasions on his face, abdomen and back.

It is not clear if he threw himself around the cell before committing suicide, or he was assaulted and forced into the drum.

Yesterday a pathologist said some of his injuries were unexplained and it was more likely he was forcefully put in the drum. 

An inmate was charged with Mr Dalton's murder but was later cleared.