$2.5m claim over shootings

Saturday May 11, 2019 Written by Published in Crime

The family of shooting victim Mary Dean has made a claim of more than $2.5 million from the Cook Islands government over negligence and other matters that led to the triple killings of October 19, 2016.

The case is before the Cook Islands High Court and will be called for mention on May 20 before Judge Judith Potter.

The claim of $2,568,144.50 was filed in November by

the estate of Mary Dean,

which is represented by three plaintiffs related to the deceased. Name suppression

has been placed on one of the plaintiffs.

Local law firm Little and Matysik is representing them through lawyer Ben Marshall.

Solicitor-General Stuart Baker appeared for the defendant (the Attorney-General) when the case was heard in March this year. The defendant is named on behalf of

the Crown and the relevantgovernment ministries and

officers involved in the shooting incident.

Dean was shot multiple times by her former partner and escaped prisoner Chris Rimamotu, who escaped a prison guard while on community duties on October 19, 2016

Moments later Rimamotu, who used .22 rifle to carry out the crime, shot Dean’s new partner Roger Tauarea, who later died in the hospital.

Rimamotu shot himself using the same gun a day later in a stand-off with the police.

The plaintiffs in various claims allege that the defendant is “vicariously liable”

for the actions of the prison service and the prison warden who escorted Rimamotu and other prisoners on the day of the


They also allege the defendant is also liable for the actions of the police service and the police officer for graphic details on the manner of the incident and

deaths to one of the plaintiffs, contributing to the trauma and causing injury to the mental health of the person.

The plaintiffs also made claims on Deaths by Accident Compensation Act 1952.

They also made claims based on the wrongful death of Dean, the economic loss (from the deceased’s earnings), psychological injury to a close family member, exemplary and public law damages, among others.

The application by the plaintiffs also referred to the inquiry into the shooting carried out by retired assistant Australian Federal Police Commissioner Denis McDermott and former Cook Islands Police Commissioner Tevai Matapo.

In their inquiry, McDermott and Matapo concluded that the crime was preventable and that extensive research found many policies and procedural, as well as intelligence, failures occurred within the prison system to contribute to the tragedy.

They also made 47 recommendations for Police and Prison Services to implement.

The application said the claim was publicly important as it held the government to account for what is alleged to be a gross act of negligence and breach of constitutional rights and freedom of the people who have been affected by the shooting incident.

In the earlier hearing of the matter on March 18, Chief Justice Hugh Williams said the case was an issue of considerable complexity, legally and possibly factually.

CJ Williams said it raises issues of novelty and it was also a matter that needed to be dealt with delicately.

“As a result of that I thought the appropriate course was to assign the case to Justice Potter for her to maintain superintendence over the case and to manage conference calls, interlocutory application and whatever needs to be done,” he said.

CJ Williams said he also noted that the Crown’s striking out application was not being pursued, adding the two parties were collaborating over the matter.       

1 comment

  • Comment Link Per-Ole Tysland Monday, 13 May 2019 14:16 posted by Per-Ole Tysland

    I understand and feel sorry for the unacceptable and unforgivable loss of Mary Dean, and also the fact that the close relatives are disturbed by the poor prison service. However, I suppose the relatives still live in Rarotonga and I can’t understand how $2,5m will make them feel better? The money have to be taken from somewhere, i.e. CK community - meaning that everybody get less improvements in social benefits such as education, healthcare and infrastructure. This is the wrong way for CK to spend their money.

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