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14 January 2021

Police arrested ‘wrong assailant’

Monday 3 February 2020 | Written by Jonathan Milne | Published in Crime


Police arrested ‘wrong assailant’
The park by Avarua roundabout, where police intervened in an assault. 20020219

A homeless drug addict has pleaded guilty to assault after a violent daylight fracas in front of locals and tourists – but witnesses say police charged the wrong man.

Ngametua Tiatoa has a long police history, and is said to sleep rough on the rocks, on the shoreline of central Avarua.

It was there, by the picnic tables across the road from Margarita’s café and bar, that he had a disagreement with the son and daughter of a Cabinet minister. The pair alleged he’d damaged a car, witnesses said.

They said the Minister’s son beat Tiatoa.

Police were called, and sent two female officers across the road. The Minister’s son then shoved one of the officers.

But it was Tiatoa who was cuffed and arrested. As he was led away, the Minister’s son shouted “don’t think we can’t get you on the inside,” according to a witness.

One witness said: “With my own eyes, I saw one of the guys push a police officer, and the police officer turned around and arrested the other guy.”

A Police spokesperson confirmed the incident was reported at 3.40pm on Friday, January 24.

“Tiatoa was arrested on a charge of assault,” the spokesperson said. “He appeared on Thursday 30 January and pled guilty to the charge of common assault.

“He will reappear on 20 February for sentencing. I don't see any indication that others will be charged.”

A year ago, when Tiatoa pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer in an “exchange of punches between the police and himself,” he admitted being a substance abuser, sniffing petrol that affected his mind.