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Nightclub brawl suspects rush to wedding after bail

Saturday 11 November 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, National


Nightclub brawl suspects rush to wedding after bail

Six men, all from Australia, and charged with a range of offences related to a brawl in a Rarotonga nightclub, had a narrow window of time to make it to a wedding following a court appearance on Friday.

A seventh man, understood to be a Rarotonga local, also allegedly involved in the “full on brawl” at Rehab Nightclub late Wednesday evening, has been remanded in custody for his own safety, and with a previous conviction for a similar offence.

The six appeared together first in the Criminal Court at Avarua yesterday as Corrections staff kept them separated from the seventh man.

It was standing room only in the public gallery as it appeared the wedding party were eagerly awaiting bail for the six defendants who had been in custody since their arrest in the early hours of Thursday.

The group are visiting from Australia and were due at The Edgewater Resort for a wedding at 3pm yesterday.

Justice of the Peace Vania Kenning set several bail conditions before releasing them just before 1pm.

They had to surrender their passports, not leave Rarotonga without permission from the High Court, not to interfere with witnesses, not to purchase or consume alcohol, not to enter licenced premises and not offer violence.

The six men are Akatau Taia, charged with fighting, assaulting a female and common assault, Tokoiva Niukore, charged with fighting, Sinatare Maretu, charged with fighting, Marlon Maretu, charged with fighting, Poutapu Maretu, two charges of assaulting a police officer, and Tiare Mareku, injuring with intent.

Four of them appeared with visible injuries.  

Defence lawyer Mark Short, himself, due to be on a flight out of the Cook Islands about 3pm yesterday, appeared on behalf of the six men, thanking JP Kenning, court staff and others for allowing the hearing to go ahead in light of the wedding at 3pm.

JP Kenning, on entering the packed courtroom asked those gathered to not record or photograph proceedings on their phones.

JP Kenning then told the court one of the victims was an extended family member to which there were no objections.

The defendants were going to be called individually but all six were brought from custody to stand in the courtroom.

After thanking the court for letting the hearing go ahead, Short said he had visited Arorangi Prison to talk to the defendants.

Because it was a new matter, they would not be entering a plea and Short asked that it be adjourned.

He handed over six passports to court staff.

Short said the six men did not want to drink and were embarrassed, truly remorseful.

Short said they did not know how the fight started, some couldn’t remember, as they were celebrating in the lead up to the wedding.

“I’m flying out at 3pm, my job is to get them released on bail.”

Police did not oppose bail.

The Police prosecutor said some are facing more serious charges and the investigation was still pending. Police were in the early stages of investigating the incident.

Short said defence lawyer Lavi Rokoika would deal with the matter going forward.

JP Kenning adjourned the matter to November 16.

After the court was cleared and the six defendants had left the building, the seventh man was brought into court, accompanied by two police officers.

He is Tangimetua Tangimetua, charged with assault with intent.

Police suggested he not enter a plea and seek legal advice, before opposing bail.

The defendant had a prior conviction on a serious charge and Police were still in the early stages of the investigation. Police said there could be more charges laid.

Police wanted him remanded in custody so there were no interactions with the group.

JP Kenning asked if Tangimetua had been given the opportunity to seek legal advice.

Police said defendants are given an opportunity to speak to a lawyer during the interview process.

JP Kenning asked Tangimetua if he had been given an opportunity to speak to a lawyer.

Tangimetua said he had not.

JP Kenning said he should be allowed to contact a lawyer, before telling Tangimetua he would be remanded in custody based on what Police said.

Tangimetua said he would be alright if he was released.

Police said there were a lot of dynamics, serious charges and a history, there was no guarantee Tangimetua would not reoffend.

JP Kenning told Tangimetua he could contact a lawyer in order to request bail.

“In terms of defusing the situation I will remand; you will need to contact a lawyer.”

The matter was adjourned to November 16.

Meanwhile, Rehab Nightclub released a statement yesterday, saying the venue would be closed last night and reopen tonight. 

“Last night’s closure was to allow our staff time to regroup following the traumatic events that occurred on Wednesday night which saw two of our own badly injured. Thank God they are in good spirits and on the road to recovery.”

Police reported on Thursday that two men had been stabbed during the altercation.

One of the two men with stab wounds was a staff member of the nightclub while a second nightclub staff member received head and eye injuries from being struck with an object.   

“We pride ourselves in providing a safe and fun environment for our guests to enjoy, and this disgusting behaviour has angered and saddened our entire team,” Rehab said in the statement.