NZ man dies in Samoan prison cell

The mother of a mentally ill man who was found dead in a police cell in Samoa hopes the death will lead to a better understanding of mental illnesses in the Pacific Island country.

New Zealander Hans Dalton (38) was found dead, upside down inside a container of water at Tafa'igata Prison on Boxing Day, the Samoa Observer reported.

Mr Dalton, who required daily medication for his mental illness, was visiting relatives in Samoa when Cyclone Evan hit.

Mr Dalton could not find his medication on the night of the cyclone and the following night when he tried to take his tablet he could not keep it down.

"So he missed two doses; and that was enough to make him very ill, his mother Christine Bowker Wilson told the Observer.

His sister Natasha took him to a psychiatrist in Motootua, where he given an injection. However, this made him agitated and angry.

Mr Dalton reportedly punched a door, and as there was nowhere to keep him at the unit, he was taken to a police station in Apia.

According to Natasha Dalton, police were told by hospital staff he was not a prisoner and needed to be looked after.

Instead he was taken to Tafa'igata Prison.

On Boxing Day, as his family were getting ready to visit Mr Dalton at the prison, police arrived and told them he had died.

Mrs Wilson was given the news at Faleolo Airport after flying from Auckland. She said the family was able to see Mr Dalton's body at the hospital.

She told the Observer her son had brain fluid coming out of his ears and bruises all over his body.

"I know he banged his head on the wall, because people do that when they're in that condition; but if you see someone doing that, you don't just let them - you try and stop them from hurting themselves."

Assistant Police Commissioner Le'aupepe Fatu Pula said Mr Dalton's death was an alleged suicide, the Observer reported.

He said Mr Dalton was transferred from the police station in Apia to the prison as the station was busy.

The cellblocks at Tafa'igata Prison had containers of water for the toilets and it was alleged Mr Dalton jumped into one, he said.

Mrs Wilson said it was dangerous to assume how her son had died.

"I don't know if it was another prisoner or one of the staff. I think at the back of it all is a lack of understanding of mental illness," she told the Observer.

"One thing I'm very sure of is that my son did not take his own life."

Mrs Wilson described her son as a "a gentle and sensitive person with the most beautiful soul".

She said her son's death highlighted the need for better mental healthcare services and facilities in Samoa.

Mr Dalton's body was flown to back to New Zealand early on Monday and the family was preparing for his tangi.

Mrs Wilson said her son's death was being investigated by New Zealand authorities.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed the death had been referred to the New Zealand coroner.


Add a Comment