Inquest into death of New Zealander Hans Dalton postponed again

Inquest into death of New Zealander Hans Dalton postponed again
Photo credit: File

A family whose son was killed in a Samoan prison has had a chance for closure snatched away at the last second.

A coroner's inquest into the death of 28-year-old Hans Dalton was set to begin today.

The formal inquest has been postponed several times over the past five years, and today was no different.

His family's lawyer Olinda Woodroffe says they've lost faith in the justice system.

"The family has no trust or confidence in this current Coroner because of the way this whole thing has been conducted for the last five years," she says.

The investigation into Hans Dalton's death in Tafa'igata Prison has been riddled with issues since he was found head down in a large drum half full of water on Boxing Day in 2012.

Samoan police initially ruled Mr Dalton took his own life, but these claims were disproven when a 22-year-old was charged with his murder.

Prisoner Jonathan Crichton was put on trial in 2014 but was found not guilty, and no one has been held responsible since.

The latest coroner's inquest was set down for three days in Auckland. Coroner Paul Ryan made the call to postpone the inquest last week due to a lack of information.

Ms Woodroffe is now applying for a new coroner to take over the case.

"The Coroner was dependent on us to try to get information which he says he could not get from Samoa," she says.

"He had a duty to continually ask the various organisations in Samoa for information.

"I haven't got any evidence of how many requests the Coroner made to Samoa.

"There's no finality for the family. Surely any human being who has suffered the sudden death of a loved one would like finality."

From holiday to Tafa'igata Prison


Hans Dalton had been visiting family in Samoa with his sister when they were caught in Cyclone Evan.

He had been taking medication for mental illness but lost access in the aftermath of the storm.

His family contacted Motootua Hospital for support on Christmas Day but, upon arrival, a psychiatrist suggested he be taken to prison for his own safety.

Instead of being kept safe, Hans Dalton was beaten and tortured behind bars.

He was found dead at 7:15am the next day.

His mother Christine Wilson says the constant delays have been like a wound that doesn't heal.

"In January 2013, we were promised a very robust and in depth inquiry by the Coroner in New Zealand," she says.

"Now five years later this has still not happened and the Coroner appears to be struggling to achieve this."

Hans Dalton's father Daniel died before he could see justice done, losing a long battle with a brain tumour late last year.

But Ms Woodroffe says it's something that can't be rushed.

"There wasn't enough evidence and I was concerned that if it went ahead, it would just be a band aid solution," she says.

"I've requested over and over again for the Coroner to subpoena for these people [in Samoa] to give evidence.

"He keeps coming back to me saying he has no authority to do this."

No date has been set for a future inquest.


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