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Family of a mentally ill man killed in a Samoan prison are begging NZ govt to intervene

Nearly six years on the family claim they've been let down by Natasha and Nicholas Dalton, with lawyer Olinda Woodruffe (centre), hope to get justice for their brother Hans who died in police custody in Samoa in 2012. [Photo / Peter Meecham]

Family of a mentally ill man killed in a Samoan prison are begging the Government to intervene in the long-running case when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern travels there this weekend for Cyclone relief efforts.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has told Hans Dalton's family the Government is "constrained" in what assistance it can give until an inquest is concluded in New Zealand, but the family says their attempts to get justice through a Coronial inquiry has been stymied in part by Samoan officials.

Hans Dalton, 38, died in December 2012 after traveling there with family. Dalton's family sought help from local authorities after Dalton had a mental health episode.

He was transferred to Tafa'igata prison, run by police, after becoming agitated. He had committed no crime and was taken there to cool down.

He was found dead the next morning; his bruised body found upside down in a drum full of water inside a cell. Police declared the death a suicide but later laid a murder charge against an inmate.

That conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court due to a lack of evidence, a decision approved of by Dalton's family.

A 2014 report by the Samoan Ombudsman said Dalton's death told "of the pitifully low performance (the prison)... It reflects miserably on the capacity of Samoa Police to be sensitive and responsive to the situation of a mentally ill person".

Nearly six years on the family claim they've been let down by Coroner Judge Peter Ryan after he proposed completing the inquiry in chambers- without an inquest- and suggested only calling Dalton's family members as witnesses.

Samoan officials have stonewalled repeated information requests, and the family feels nothing has been done to compel Samoan witnesses to provide information despite the two countries having a Friendship Treaty.

Dalton's sister Tasha Dalton last week wrote to Ardern and Peters pleading for "any assistance and support possible".

"Our lawyer has worked tirelessly during this time to get some form of resolution and finality for our family only to be met with further delays, failure of full disclosure and a lack of accountability and justice from the Samoan Government and Government Departments," she wrote.

Read more at NZ Herald