Mart Arson trial: Lying witness is recalled to stand

Friday August 02, 2019 Written by Published in Crime
The Tex Mart store at Betela was fully ablaze by midnight on the Friday night.	 JOHN HAY / 18062415 The Tex Mart store at Betela was fully ablaze by midnight on the Friday night. JOHN HAY / 18062415

Prosecutors called a self-confessed liar back to the stand in the Raro Mart arson trial, to quiz him on unexpected new evidence – the latest surprise in an already twisted courtroom tale.

Puapii Nicholas had shocked the court a day earlier with his testimony that he “lied” to the police, when he accused his friend David Tonorio of burning down three stores last year.

Yesterday, prosecutor Kathy Bell called him back to the witness stand, to have another shot at getting him to confirm his original police statement.

Nicholas stood before the Judge again, with his right hand on the Bible, swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Bell asked: “How many times have you spoken to the police?”

He replied: “I can’t answer, reason being, I have spoken to them multiple times, I lost count.”

Asked if he recalled what he told police, he said no.

He was handed his police statements to recall what he told the police and, in confirming his initials on the statement, he once again said: “It was me, but just to get my phone.”

Then Bell hit him with new evidence: that he had told one of his family members, whose name is suppressed, that Tonorio had caused the fire at Friendly Mart.

“I lied too,” he replied.

David Tonorio is charged with three counts of arson. He is alleged to have burnt down the Friendly Mart, Betela Tex Mart store and the Raro Mart buildings last year.

Two other witnesses, Philip Hosking and Timota Kokaria, told High Court Judge Colin Doherty that Tonorio confessed to them.

A fourth youth Jonathan Simpson gave witness via a Skype video call from America, saying Tonorio did tell him he caused the fire but did not mention which property.

He told the court he asked Tonorio himself and was not influenced by the police.

Meanwhile, detective senior sergeant Roimata Peraua, the officer in charge of the Raro Mart fire investigation said he went to see Tonorio on October 11 last year, close to four months after the first fire (Friendly Mart).

Defence counsel Norman George asked him if he had panicked or was desperate to get somebody or was he pressured to arrest someone when going to see his client?

Peraua said he was not.

George asked if police established where the fire started?

Peraua said they were unable to establish this.

George said for the Friendly Mart fire there were two points where the fire started and caused by papers being lit and for Betela Tex mart, the cause of the fire is alleged to have been kerosene.

He asked Peraua if police excluded the fact that there were three different people who committed the offence?

Peraua replied: “No can’t exclude that possibility.”

The trial continues today with the four defence witness taking the stand.


* $8m Cooks insurance bill rising

* Floods and fires fuel pain

* Tonorio to appeal arson conviction, says lawyer

* Arsonist continues crime spree on bail

* Police work on arson case praised

*‘I lied’: Stunning u-turn by arson accuser

* 18 year old guilty of arson

* Arson accused: I wouldn’t say a lie

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