30 Aug 2018

Corrections officer says he fought for his life in prison clash

9:04 pm on 30 August 2018

A Corrections officer says he was fighting for his life as he wrestled with two prisoners armed with shanks.

Desmond Fa’afoi (left), Wiremu Paitea (middle) and Viju Devassy (right).

Desmond Fa’afoi (left), Wiremu Paitea (middle) and Viju Devassy (right). Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Desmond Fa'afoi was repeatedly stabbed and cut around his head and neck area.

The 27-year-old is accused of kicking one of the prisoners who stabbed him three times in the head as the prisoner lay on the ground surrounded by other officers.

The father-of-one, and former soldier, was working inside the maximum security prison, Paremoremo, patting down prisoners as they left the recreation room and made their way to their cells - known inside as a rec-movement.

"And then as Leroy called for the next prisoner, that's when I felt the blow to the back of my head," Mr Fa'afoi said.

Two of the prisoners - Trent Wellington and Samuel Junior Hutchins - are members of the street gang The Killer Beez. A third prisoner Mitai Angell is an associate of the gang.

Mr Fa'afoi held his arms up as the blows continued, he said.

"And then I remember feeling all these punches on the top of my head. I quickly looked up and I had a prisoner on my left and a prisoner on my right," Mr Fa'afoi said.

Mr Fa'afoi blanked out and remembers lying on the stairs between the cell landings of Bravo block.

"I was confused, I didn't know what was going on. I was like ... I was real dizzy. I just remember tumbling my way to where the officers were struggling with the prisoner," he said.

The next thing he remembers is waking up in hospital, he said.

Mr Fa'afoi said he was wearing a body camera. He was asked by his lawyer Todd Simmonds if he turned the camera on.

"To be honest, I didn't have enough time. I had two prisoners attacking me, I couldn't ... I was fighting for my life so I couldn't really turn it on."

He had been in the job just two years.

Mr Fa'afoi said he had no memory and no intention of kicking Mitai Angell as the prisoner was held down on the ground by his colleagues.

Mr Fa'afoi was left with a puncture wound to the back of his head and cuts to his face and forearms.

He will be cross-examined by the Crown prosecutor Jo Murdoch tomorrow.

Mr Fa'afoi's colleague, Wiremu Paikea, is accused of putting Angell in a figure four foot-lock and breaking the prisoner's leg and dislocating his ankle.

Corrections officer Viju Devassy is accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice by turning a camera away from Angell as he lay on the ground surrounded by officers.

The trial, before Justice Gordon and jury, has been set down for a further two weeks.


  • 16 October 2016: Corrections officer Viju Devassy is one of six officers attacked by five prisoners.
  • 20 May 2017: Desmond Fa'afoi is attacked by two prisoners and repeatedly stabbed in the head. Later Mr Fa'afoi is accused of kicking one of the prisoners in the head as the prisoner lay on the ground. Prison officer Wiremu Paikea is accused of putting the prisoner in a leg-lock and breaking is ankle and leg. Corrections officer Viju Devassy is said to have turned a camera away from the incident.
  • 21 May 2017: Detective Sergeant Steve Brewer makes contact with Mr Fa'afoi and Mr Paikea. Both decline to be interviewed as of right. Other staff are interviewed and security footage is obtained.
  • 13 June 2017: Mr Fa'afoi and Mr Paikea are charged.
  • Mr Devassy makes a statement recorded on DVD with Detective Sergeant Brewer.