28 Nov 2014

Unco-operative prison guard named

6:33 pm on 28 November 2014

An Otago prison guard who refused to co-operate with the inquest into a prisoner's death can be named as Fred Matenga - the husband of a senior prison manager.

Jai Davis.

Jai Davis Photo: Supplied

Mr Matenga would not read a brief or answer questions yesterday morning when he appeared at the inquest into how Jai Davis died at Otago prison in 2011. He was one of those responsible for the care of Mr Davis in an at-risk cell on the night he died.

The police say there are inconsistencies in his statements and checks on the prisoner, which he appears not to have done.

Mr Matenga applied to both the coroner and to the High Court for name suppression but they have both refused to grant it.

He is married to Ann-Maree Matenga, who was the most senior Otago prison manager on call the weekend Mr Davis died.

His lawyer yesterday said the officer's evidence was that he heard Mr Davis snoring or breathing after the time a pathologist said the prisoner was already dead.

The lawyer said his client could incriminate himself by giving evidence because there were only three options: the pathologist was wrong, the officer misheard the prisoner or the officer was lying.

The coroner has warned Mr Matenga he might make an adverse comment about his refusal to co-operate.


Today, forensic pathologist Martin Sage told the inquest there were serious inconsistencies in Mr Matenga's claims he had checked on Mr Davis every 15 minutes all night as required, and that he was snoring and moving.

But Dr Sage said Mr Davis was almost certainly dead by 1am.

"There is, therefore, an obvious inconsistency between the conclusions drawn by those first examining the body of Davis once the cell was opened just after 5am and the recorded observations that he was breathing and/or snoring up until a few minutes prior."

Sergeant Trevor Thomson appeared at the coroner's inquest in Dunedin.

Sergeant Trevor Thomson appeared today at the coroner's inquest in Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Sergeant Trevor Thomson told the inquest paramedics were not called for Mr Davis for until eight hours after he last moved.

The evidence was given at the inquest's fifth day into Mr Davis' death of a suspected overdose.

Mr Thomson, who carried out the initial investigation, said the ambulance crew arrived about 6am on 14 February to find Mr Davis in an advanced state of rigor mortis, suggesting he had died some hours earlier.

Mr Thomson said internal camera footage showed Mr Davis last showed signs of life at about 10pm the previous night, but no one went into the cell to check on him until the morning.

He told the coroner he found Mr Davis lying on his bed with a pill bottle beside him and a pool of blood on the floor, which he said would have been visible from the cell door and hatch.

Mr Thomson said he had investigated whether anyone could be prosecuted in relation to the death but his police station already had a large caseload and there were evidential obstacles.

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