Tu'uheava murder case: Accused man describes 'hit' call

8:50 pm on 18 June 2019

One of the men accused of murdering Abraham Tu'uheava told police he overhead his cousin say he had the "green light" to kill him.

Abraham Tuuheava from Manurewa, he was also known as Epalahame Tuuheava or "Hame".

Abraham Tuuheava from Manurewa, he was also known as Epalahame Tuuheava or "Hame". Photo: Facebook

Mr Tu'uheava was shot dead and his wife Yolanda severely injured on Greenwood Road in Māngere on 1 May last year.

Fisilau Tapaevalu and Mesui Tufui are on trial in the High Court at Auckland after pleading not guilty to murder and attempted murder.

Both men deny any role in the killing but said they were with a third man who has admitted the charges, Villiami Taani, on the night in question.

Ms Tu'uheava, who was shot in the head twice and still has a bullet in her brain, identified Mr Tufui in court as one of the gunmen.

His defence was that it was a case of mistaken identity and although he hung out with Taani and Mr Tapaevalu they dropped him home before the shooting.

In a DVD interview played to the jury today, he told Detective Regan Tamihere he was innocent.

"I had nothing to do with it ... I just don't know what to say. I'm speechless. I wasn't even there."

He told the detective he knew of Mr Tu'uheava, who was his older brother's age, from his childhood in Ōtāhūhū but hadn't seen him in years.

The court heard he had been spending a lot of time with his co-defendant and cousin Fisilau Tapaevalu, nicknamed 'Fish', before the shooting.

Mr Tufui said his cousin was working his way into the Comancheros through patched member Villiami Taani, known as 'William'.

Taani, who was also a cousin of Mr Tufui's, pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder three weeks ago.

Mr Tufui told Detective Tamihere all three of them met up roughly six hours before the shooting.

"William and Fish picked me up from my home address in Māngere ... I thought we were just going for a cruise which means driving around having a catch up."

Mr Tufui said they went to the Manukau McDonald's where Taani got out of the car to meet Abraham Tu'uheava.

He said he didn't realise it was Abraham at the time because it was dark and the man was wearing a hoodie.

As they drove away, Mr Tufui said Taani called someone on Snapchat.

"I heard William say 'what's the go with the Nomads?' From the part that I did hear I picked up that the person on the other end of the phone had an Australian accent."

Later that night the three cousins, Mr Tufui, Mr Tapaevalu and Taani parked up at Bucklands Beach to meet another Comancheros member.

Mr Tufui said he and Mr Tapaevalu smoked a cigarette while Taani got out of the car and disappeared into the dark for 5-10 minutes.

"When he got back into the car William looked at Fish and said 'yeah, green light' ... we then began driving from Bucklands Beach to my house.

"While we were driving, William lent over to Fish and whispered 'that's the guy that's making money off the [Comancheros'] name and we're going to put him to sleep'."

Mr Tufui said he wasn't sure if he was supposed to hear this but assumed they were talking about Abraham Tu'uheava.

"I heard William saying to Fish 'he thinks he's coming to get a gram or a key'. Something like that. I thought a key was a kilo so that made me think they were going to lure him in with a drug deal."

The court previously heard evidence the killing may have been a hit ordered by the Comanchero gang in Australia.

Mr Tufui said he was dropped home and did not know what happened until he saw stories in the media the next day.

He changed some details in his story but repeatedly told Detective Tamihere he had nothing to do with the killing.

At one point during the recorded interview the detective left the room for a break and Mr Tufui turned to the camera and said, "got the wrong guy. I'm innocent".

His lawyer Paul Borich QC questioned police's change in interviewing style in cross-examination today.

He said at one point another officer - Detective Steve Anderson - entered the room and they both asked questions and stared at the accused for long periods of time.

The detective agreed the interviewing style had changed mid-interview but said it wasn't a planned strategy.

Co-accused Fisilau Tapaevalu, who is represented by Sam Wimsett, admitted he was there the night of the shooting but said he never got out of the car.

The Crown has now closed its case and the defence will open tommorrow morning.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs