13 Dec 2018

Family of NZer who died in Samoan prison plead for justice

6:26 pm on 13 December 2018

The brother of an Auckland man found dead in a Samoan prison has made a plea to its government to help his family find justice.

Hans Dalton

Hans Dalton Photo: Supplied

It's been six years since Hans Dalton was found dead in a 44 gallon water drum in Samoa's Tafa'igata Prison.

Today an inquest into his death came to a close, but not before Mr Dalton's brother, Nicholas Dalton, appealed to Samoan authorities to do better.

"Your honour, through this statement I wish to encourage the Samoan Prime Minister and his government to show genuine Samoan humility and humble themselves and I truly hope they will find the strength and courage to do so.

"In Samoa there is a well-known saying, 'Fa'avae i le Atua Sāmoa'. It means Samoa is founded on God, but I can't see God's influence in any of this."

Hans was a 38-year-old psychiatric patient whose bruised body was found head-first in a water drum on Boxing Day in 2012.

Mr Dalton told the court he hoped lessons would be learned from his brother's death and said he wanted to address violence in Samoan culture.

"I am half Samoan, half English. Over the course of my lifetime I have seen the best and worst of both cultures. I have been to Samoa and England numerous times and I know that attitude towards violence in the Samoan culture needs to change."

He said both he and his brother suffered violence at the hands of their father at a young age, and had anger issues in the years that followed.

Mr Dalton said he found out his brother had died while he was in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction.

"My brother's poison was cannabis, mine was meth. Drugs have destroyed both our lives although we took seperate paths to destruction."

He said as a former drug-addict, drug dealer and gang member he knew that if he could turn his life around, his brother could have too.

Mr Dalton's family have always maintained he was murdered and never considered suicide a viable explanation for his death.

But establishing the facts surrounding his death has been difficult, largely due to Samoan authorities' refusal to handover what information they hold.

At the start of the inquest, which had previously been adjourned twice, Coroner Peter Ryan said attempts to retrieve official reports had been futile.

On the inquest's second day, key witness Doctor Ian Parkin, the psychiatrist who saw Mr Dalton in Samoa before he died, refused to appear.

Dr Parkin wrote to the coroner that this was because he was a witness in a civil suit the family are taking against the Samoan government.

Coroner Ryan, or any New Zealand authority, has no jurisdiction to compel overseas witnesses or authorities to cooperate.

But the Dalton family's lawyer, Olinda Woodroffe, said Samoa and New Zealand have a treaty of friendship.

She challenged Prime Minister Jacinda Adern to approach Samoan authorities about Mr Dalton's death.

"Jacinda Adern, I ask you as a mother, as I am too, step ahead and do what you can to get the information from Samoa and work together with women like us who want to make a difference in this world and the future."

Mr Dalton's mother, Christine Wilson, said she had hoped for more support from the New Zealand government.

"I cannot see that our government cannot do something. Particularly with the treaty of friendship and all the aid that goes into Samoa. It's a close relationship, it's not just another country that doesn't have that closeness. I expected as a citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand, and Hans was one too, that there would be more support from our government."

The prime minister was asked about Mr Dalton's death but refused to comment, saying the matter was still before the courts.

However her father, who was a police liason in Samoa at the time of his death, told the court he believed Mr Dalton died in the most unusual set of circumstances.

"My view at the time was that the investigation required a much more thorough investigation than was first implemented and there needed to be some serious questions asked about access to the cell area and how a relatively large man could end in a position he was found in."

'He was the most gentle, caring soul'

Ms Wilson said Mr Dalton, her youngest child, was incredibly generous and loved to talk about philosophy with his friends.

"It was like he was here for a short mission. He had no desire to accumulate property or material wealth. He used it to give out to people but he was very unselfish. He was the child who would come and put a flower on your pillow."

She said in the week that his body lay in their family home, she met his friends and wondered why they called him 'Socks'.

"I thought it was because he would wear white, basketball socks but it came out during that week that it was short for Socrates. He was like their philosopher."

Mr Dalton's sister, Natasha Dalton, said her brother was in the top classes at high school.

"He was probably the most intellectual out of all of us."

Ms Wilson described her son as "a beautiful soul" and said he had goals to become a good role model for his nephews and stop smoking cannabis.

The coroner's findings are expected to be released in March.