Tonorio to appeal arson conviction, says lawyer

Monday August 12, 2019 Written by Published in Crime
David Tonorio. David Tonorio.

The young man convicted of arson attacks on three stores is to appeal the guilty verdicts, saying he was with his family at the time of the fires.

Defence lawyer Norman George said he has been instructed by the family of David Tonorio, 18, to lodge an appeal.

His client still denied lighting any of the three fires. The only evidence against him was from three former friends who, George told the court, were themselves “persons of interest” in relation to the fires.

A fourth friend did a dramatic u-turn on the witness stand, retracting his previous statement to police that Tonorio had confessed to him.

The fires were set over three weeks in June and July last year. Tonorio was arrested in October, and on Friday was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison.

At the High Court, George advised Judge Colin Doherty he had been instructed to file an appeal.

A jury found he had set fire to the Friendly Mart shop in Arorangi on June 14, the Betela Tex Mart shop on June 22, and Raro Mart in Avarua on July 8 last year.

Norman George said afterwards that the jury’s verdict was perverse, and did not add up with the evidence before the court.

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Tonorio’s alibis were unchallenged: “In relation to Friendly Mart, the Tonorio family was at the campaign headquarters of Teariki Heather; at the same time owner Doreen Boggs owners of Friendly Mart was also there on the night of the fire,” George said.

On the night of the Tex Mart ifre, David Tonorio and his family were home preparing food for the market, and the same again on the night of the Raro Mart fire.

“The alibi evidence was remarkably unchallenged and un-breached. It means that Tonorio was somewhere else and this was fully verified by his family. This evidence was ignored by the jury,” George said.

“The jury chose to reject the alibi evidence of the family instead accepted those of his associates.”

George added: “We shall appeal on the question of law and sentence. The question of law shall include the argument that the jury was wrong and their verdict was not supported by the evidence before them.”

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