14 Jul 2016

Claim of cover-up in NZ detainee's death

7:40 am on 14 July 2016

The mother of a New Zealander who died in immigration detention in Australia believes authorities are covering up what she maintains was a violent death in a Sydney lock-up.

Rob Peihopa

Rob Peihopa Photo: Facebook

The ABC has obtained a three-page report under freedom of information laws from the Immigration Department into Rob Peihopa's death at Villawood Detention Centre in April, but nearly every line of it has been blacked out.

Authorities have said he died of a heart attack, and the new report mentions he had health issues.

But Hera Peihopa, who lives in Sydney, said those were the result of a motorbike crash and she believed her son died after being beaten up by other detainees.

She expected her lawyer to get the report from the investigating police detectives soon, but doubts that will shed much light.

"I'm not really confident in these guys to be honest," she said.

"The detectives are not telling me that it's a criminal investigation. If he had of died out on the street, or other than at Villawood, it would be a criminal investigation. There's just something wrong here."

Earlier this week Ms Peihopa went to Villawood Detention Centre to pick up her song's belongings.

"I haven't actually opened up his things, it's just too upsetting."

A screenshot of part of the information provided by the Australian government.

A screenshot of part of the information provided by the Australian government. Photo: ABC

Villawood's call for her to come get the belongings was, she said, the first time she had any communication with them - even on the night her son died, she learned of it from police and the media.

NSW police have confirmed no charges had been laid over the death, though Immigration had passed on information about the alleged fight.

Police told the ABC a brief of evidence had been handed to the coroner.

Ms Peihopa said the largely redacted report showed the Department was being "careful and secretive ... the Government wouldn't want to show how their private contractors [Serco] are running these facilities. They wouldn't want to be shown up in a bad light".

She had little confidence in the police, the coroner or that Serco would be held to account.

"They're responsible for running these facilities. This is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.

"All the security, it's all just superficial for the public - I don't know what really goes on, cos what do they do, cameras that don't work? Cameras that are set up that aren't recording?"

Ms Peihopa also doubted the New Zealand government would do anything to pressure Canberra. "I don't think they'll lift a finger, they're hopeless."

She said that if ultimately no charges were laid, she would seek legal advice about what to do next.