NZer found dead in Samoan jail may have been forced into drum
Auckland, NEW ZEALAND — An Auckland man found dead in a water drum in a Samoan prison may have been forced into it, a court has heard.
Hans Christopher Dalton was found half-submerged in a 44 gallon drum in his Tafa'igata prison cell on Boxing Day in 2012.
Six years later, an inquest to determine the facts of his death has begun.
Coroner Peter Ryan began the inquest by acknowledging Mr Dalton's mother, Christine Wilson, and his family for their "very sad loss".
Mr Dalton had been holidaying with family in Samoa when Cyclone Evan struck.
He had been a psychiatric patient but lost his medication in the natural disaster and had an episode.
Officials put the Auckland man in a prison cell for his own safety but he was found dead the following morning.
Coroner Ryan said if Mr Dalton had died in a New Zealand prison, there would be official reports, evidence and witnesses that could be tested in court.
But the coroner said repeated attempts to retrieve information from Samoan authorities had been futile.
Sergeant Heather Ruddell told the court New Zealand authorities had no control over that.
"We have no legal jurisdiction with Samoa. However, we do have the ability to liaise and I made inquiries and received, like the coroner, no response."
Ms Ruddell said she also went to Interpol but could not retrieve any official information about Mr Dalton's death.
The coroner said the inquest did benefit from a forensic pathologist's report on the man's post-mortem examination.
Dr Kate White had flown to Samoa for the procedure and gave evidence at Samoa's coronial inquest into Mr Dalton's death.
Describing his injuries, she noted bruises and abrasions on his face, abdomen and back; some of which couldn't be explained.
"These, and some of the other injuries, are not characteristic of injuries sustained in a fall or in the course of usual restraint.
"I can't tell you how they occurred but I'm happy to say I don't believe they occurred in the course of a normal fall or stumble or usual restraint."
She said Mr Dalton had a heart condition which would have made him more susceptible to drowning.
"My personal preference is to think that he has drowned and his coronary artery disease potentially contributed to that."
But Dr White said it was unclear how he ended up in the water drum.
She concurred with Christopher Gudsell QC, the lawyer assisting the coroner, that it was more likely he had been forcibly put in the drum.
The inquest, which will hear from Mr Dalton's mother and medical professionals who treated him, is set down for three days.