The Kiwi family of a Tongan man killed in Hawaii say they
have no idea what happened to their relative, beyond what
they've read in the news.
Josh Liava'a, 65, was allegedly shot in the head by a
relative with a rifle in Kahaluu during a dispute on Monday
and pronounced dead in hospital that night.
Samuela Mataele, 18, was yesterday charged with his murder in
Hawaii and is due in court this morning to face the charges.
One of the slain man's six children, Joseph Liava'a told the
Herald he was flying out this morning to claim his father's
body -- and he hoped to learn what had happened.
"We don't actually know much about what's going on," he said.
He did not have any more to say, he said, other than the fact
he did not know the teenager allegedly responsible for the
shooting. Another Kiwi relative, who did not want to be
named, said the man who was charged was likely a relative of
some sort but was not a nephew in the traditional Western
"They are related in some way but we don't know them. He was
living with that family, as far as we know," the relative
According to Honolulu's KITV News, sources close to the
family say the 18-year-old alleged killer "was known to have
struggled with mental illness".
Mataele's father was thought to have been looking after the
Kahaluu property where the shooting took place, and that
Liava'a was staying there.
Local news site KHON2 reported that following the single shot
that killed Mr Liava'a, "Mataele then threatened to shoot a
36-year-old, but that man was able to run away and alert
The report said Mataele was caught after a seven-hour
Mr Liava'a was a former Auckland policeman, who also
represented the national rugby league team in the 1975 World
Cup. He made headlines twice in his life for romancing two
Tongan Princesses, one of whom he secretly wedded in 1969
before having the marriage annulled by the Tongan King when
he found out.
The Tongan-born former cop had not been permanently living in
New Zealand for some time, splitting time between Australia
and the United States.
"He got fed up with New Zealand ... " his relative said. "He
moved around quite a bit."
It is understood he had been in Hawaii for about six months
before the shooting.
Salote Lilo, a Tongan community leader in Auckland, recalled
working alongside Mr Liava'a in the late 80s and early 90s
for the not-for-profit South Auckland Tongan Association,
which provided services to the local Tongan community
including a shelter, counselling for domestic abuse and
"He's a gentleman, a hard-working person. He was passionate
and his passion was to help the community," she said.
- By Sam Boyer of the New Zealand Herald