Alan Ah Mu
APIA: TUESDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2014: The lock of Hans Dalton cell was not tampered with a locksmith told Police.
The locksmith, a “Mr Parker,” also told the court it was “impossible” to open the lock of the cell with the opener of a tin of pork luncheon as alleged by the prosecution.
These were two of the reasons why Justice Lesa Rapi Va’ai last week acquitted Jonathan Patrick Crichton of the murder of Dalton on 26 December 2012. In doing so he reversed the guilty verdict reached by the trial assessors or jury.
Justice Va’ai gave his written reasons for the acquittal on late Friday last week.
The Police said Crichton confessed in a statement on 8 January he had unlocked the cell with the opener then placed Dalton head first into a 44 gallon drum of water.
Crichton said he was pressured into making that statement by Police – and a second statement a day later as well.
“The accused told the court that the investigating officer suggested to the accused that the cell door was not locked and as a result of persistent pressure the accused gave the second statement stating that the cell door was not locked which therefore enabled the accused to enter cell 4 and killed the deceased,” said Justice Va’ai.
“But that statement of the 9th January cannot be the truth either because police officers Taufanua and Anapapa told the court the door to cell 4 was locked after the visit by the psychiatric team at 9pm. Keys to cell 4 were kept at the office,” he said.
Under cross examination Officer Taufanua said he ensured the latch outside the door for cell 4 was latched and the lock clicked.
“The last visit to cell 4 was at 4.20am by Taufanua and Anapapa and the door was still locked.”
Justice Va’ai says the deceased was confined to cell 4 to protect himself from harm and to protect other inmates in cell block 2.
“It would therefore be contrary to good sense and logic not to secure cell 4 by leaving the door unlocked.”
Prisoner Siliva Suitupe, 20, “obviously with a diminished intellect” gave a second written statement to the police on 10 January. Suitupe said he woke up at night and walked from his cell 3 to cell 5 to urinate.
It meant he walked past Dalton’s Cell 4, and past the same cell again on his way back to go to Cell 2 where the accused Crichton was.
According to Suitupe, “The accused was not in his cell and it was at that moment he saw cell 4 door was opened and the accused was inside with the deceased upside down in the drum. For very obvious reasons, his testimony simply cannot make sense.”
Finally the Judge doubted Crichton was strong enough to lift Dalton and place him head first in the drum.
“The police officers described the deceased as big,” he says.
“One officer said the deceased was three times size of the accused. The post mortem report stated the deceased as that of a male measuring approximately 180cm in height and of heavy but not overweight build. Four to six people carried the dead body away from cell block.”
The prosecution alleged that Crichton’s motive for killing Dalton was anger. The deceased had thrown back at him biscuits and water and had sworn at him.
A psychiatric patient the deceased had also screamed, yelled and sworn all night into the early hours of the morning. But the Judge pointed out that even after Dalton had thrown back the water and biscuits Crichton had given him, Crichton did return to give the deceased the fire to light his cigarette with.
“It was on that visit that the deceased grabbed the accused’s hands through the spaces in the cell door and pulled the accused towards the door. Under cross examination he admitted he was upset but he also understood the deceased was a psychiatric patient.
“If Siliva’s evidence in chief is to be believed, it was the police who displayed aggressiveness right at the beginning during the visit by the psychiatric team at 9pm when two officers grabbed the deceased by the hair and hurled him from the corridor to the inside of cell 4.
It probably explains the responses by officers Taufanua and Anapapa to the question whether they noticed any injuries on the deceased during their visits. Both said they cannot recall. Given that the purpose of taking torch lights on their visits was to check if the psychiatric patient was secured and did not hurt himself, it is utterly incredible that they both could not recall seeing any injuries.
“Given the evidence I have outlined I am the opinion that the prosecution has not proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was the accused who placed the deceased upside down in the 44 gallon drum. Accordingly I reversed the guilty verdict and acquit the accused.”