21 Apr 2016

Home detention for woman who killed partner

2:08 pm on 21 April 2016

A woman who fatally stabbed her partner at their Porirua home while he was on electronic bail for assaulting her has been sentenced to 12 months' home detention.

Amanda Taitapanui, 29, had originally pleaded not guilty to murdering Mura Dean Tagatauli in March last year, but later admitted the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Taitapanui, who was previously known as Aaliyah Tagatauli, appeared in the High Court in Wellington this morning via video link.

Her lawyer, Letizia Ord, told the court her client had already been assaulted by her partner on the day of the stabbing and had no intention of killing him.

She said Taitapanui had feared for her life and was experiencing a "dissociative episode" at the time.

"She simply wanted to stop the argument and end the violence."

Taitapanui immediately tried to help her partner by applying pressure to the stab wound in his leg, but was unable to stop the bleeding.

She was extremely distressed afterwards and remained hysterical for many hours, constantly asking after his wellbeing.

Both partners had realised they needed to break the cycle of violence in their relationship, and at her request, Mr Tagatauli had begun an anti-violence programme the week before his death, Ms Ord said.

Taitapanui continued to suffer deep remorse and overwhelming grief.

"She says: 'I lost my own life that night, I lost my partner from my own hands, not knowing I had hurt him until I was able to breathe properly and see clearly. And this is the scar that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. Just because you cannot see my tears or feel my hurt, doesn't mean it isn't there. My tears are endless and my pain is like a cancer'."

Victim impact statements from Mr Tagatauli's family detailed the emotional and financial problems they suffered following his death.

His father, Jeff, said it felt as though his family was "falling apart", and they had had no support from the police.

"We thought they would help but they have not been very helpful. This has caused our family even more stress. We feel as if we have been fobbed off. We feel as if we've been pushed aside. We are paying the price, we did nothing."

Mr Tagatauli's mother, Colleen, said his death had affected every part of her life.

"My son, Mura, is the first thing that comes into my head when I wake up every morning. He is the last thing I think about before I go to sleep."

She worried about Mura's father, who "just sits for hours just staring into space and bursts into tears", and also for his brother and sister.

Justice Clifford said he had not found any other cases in which someone who had stabbed a person to death had been sentenced to home detention.

But he concluded it was appropriate in this case because prison was not necessary as a deterrent for Taitapanui, who was already deeply remorseful.

He said he was also taking into account her complex post-traumatic stress disorder - or 'battered woman syndrome" - as well as the fact she did not intend to kill, and her guilty plea.

Taitapanui, who was five weeks pregnant with the couple's second child at the time of her partner's death, was now the sole parent of five children, he noted.

"Home detention will enable you to care for your two young daughters, the daughters of Mr Tagatauli, and your three older children. And I say quite explicitly that those are factors that have called into play the compassion of the court."

Justice Clifford thanked Mr Tagatauli's family for their restraint during the court proceedings and acknowledged their tragedy.

"I also know that for you, the sentence I've imposed may not respond to what you think is appropriate.

"It is what I have done, however, and what I consider the law directs me to do."