Junior Togatuki's family believe death wasn't suicide

Junior Togatuki was facing deportation back to New Zealand
Junior Togatuki was facing deportation back to New Zealand

The family of a New Zealand man who died in solitary confinement inside an Australian prison say he didn't commit suicide. 

Junior Togatuki was facing deportation back to New Zealand when he was found dead in his cell.

The Togatuki family are used to life without Junior, who was just 26 years old when he died. He'd been in prison all his adult life.

But his death still clearly leaves a massive hole in their lives.

"He's a kind person, a loving person," Togatuki's mother told 3 News.

He was being held in the isolation unit at Sydney's Goulburn SuperMax prison where two weeks ago he was found dead.

"They told us my brother had committed suicide," says Togatuki's sister, Jean.

"I don't believe it. He had three weeks left, who the hell spends seven years in jail and all of a sudden [commits suicide]."

Togatuki was four when the family moved to Australia.

At 16 he was convicted of armed robbery, and in August he'd finished his sentence.

But under a new Australian law any foreigner with a 12-month conviction or more will be deported.

Togatuki was suffering schizophrenia and anxiety and had written to the Australian immigration minister begging not to be sent to New Zealand.

Jean Togatuki says her brother didn't want to return to New Zealand at first, but had recently warmed to the idea.

Almost 200 New Zealanders are currently being held indefinitely in Australian detention centres awaiting deportation.

Prime Minister John Key, who's at the United Nations in New York this week, says Foreign Minister Murray McCully has texted the Australian foreign minister about the issue.

"We cannot have Kiwis, even those who have done wrong but they've done their time, we cannot have them being treated this way and the more vulnerable ones now dying in their prisons," says Labour leader Andrew Little.

The Togatuki family just want justice.

"It makes me wonder how much are they failing other people too – not just my brother," says Jean Togatuki.

It's a question the Australian government is so far refusing to answer.

*Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354, or the Samaritans on 0800 726 666.

3 News