'Truly thought I was going to die': Man who lifted partner by her throat loses appeal

Photo: File image / Getty
Photo: File image / Getty
This article discusses violence against a woman and may be distressing to some readers

A very drunk man kicked open a bathroom door and grabbed his partner, holding her off the ground by the throat and shaking her until she lost control of her bladder.

She lost control again moments later when Thomas Hoani Tuhou threw her onto a couch, grabbed her throat again with both hands and squeezed until she could not breathe.

“I truly thought I was going to die,” the woman said later in a victim impact statement.

She said Tuhou watched true crime shows and had once told her that “strangulation was the perfect murder”.

Her ordeal included other assaults, during which she scratched Tuhou’s face to try to get free, yelled from a window for help and then ran outside the house, only to be dragged back in.

Eventually, she managed to break free and call 111.

Tuhou, 36, later pleaded guilty to two charges of strangulation, one charge of threatening to kill and one of assaulting a person in a family relationship.

He was jailed for two years and three months by Judge Brian Callaghan in the Christchurch District Court in June 2023.

Tuhou appealed against his sentence to the High Court at Christchurch, arguing that it was “manifestly excessive”.

Justice Rachel Dunningham dismissed the appeal.

Her decision said that, during an argument, when Tuhou was heavily intoxicated, he grabbed his partner round the neck with two hands and lifted her off the ground.

When she stood up, he grabbed her again and pushed her back on the bed.

This happened about four times.

When she got off the bed and went across the hallway to the bathroom, Tuhou followed her, kicked the door open and lifted her off the floor with both hands around her neck.

When she went into the lounge, he threw her onto the couch and squeezed her throat again, while telling her he was going to kill her.

She could not breathe and scratched his face to get him to let her go.

She ran to an open window and yelled for help. When Tuhou closed the window, she ran outside.

He followed and grabbed her by the back of the neck with two hands as she was again calling out for help.

She held onto the wing mirror of a car to prevent herself from being pulled back into the house, but the mirror broke off.

As Tuhou was carrying her into the house, he tripped and pulled her down on top of him, again trying to grab her around the throat.

She managed to get away and call emergency services.

In the appeal against his jail sentence, Tuhou’s lawyers argued that similar cases had begun with a lower starting point for sentencing.

They also argued that the assaults were an “uncharacteristic demonstration of violence” and he had not offended in that way before.

However, Justice Dunningham said the victim had experienced “terror” during the attack.

“It is important to recognise that, in the present case, there were two very serious strangulation events, both of which caused the victim to become incontinent,” she said.

“Furthermore, there were elements of strangulation in the associated assaults.

“The summary of facts refers to two further incidents of grabbing her around the neck, the first of which involved lifting her off the ground.

“Also aggravating this offending was the threat to kill made during one of the serious incidents of strangulation.”

She dismissed the appeal.

Involuntary urination is a common response to being choked. It is one of the things victims are asked about when health workers seek information from them after they have been attacked.

A new offence of strangulation, or impeding breathing, was introduced in 2018 after a Law Commission report found that 71 per cent of homicide victims in a domestic violence setting had been strangled earlier in the relationship. It carries a maximum of seven years in prison.


How to get help: If you're in danger now: • Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people. Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you. Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Crisis line - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (available 24/7)
• Shine: Helpline - 0508 744 633 (available 24/7)
• It's Not Ok: Family violence information line - 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Specialist services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children.
• Crisis line - 0800 742 584 (available 24/7)
• Ministry of Justice: For information on family violence
• Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga: National Network of Family Violence Services
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women.

By Ric Stevens
Open Justice reporter