19 September 2022, Apia Samoa. The Office of the Attorney General today withdrew four charges against a man in his late 60s, arrested for publicly shooting two men in the early hours of 1st January 2021 in what has been widely reported as the Afega Double Murders.
Fuifui Ione of the AGs Office told the Court prosecution wished to withdraw two charges of murder, and two charges relating to possession of a dangerous and unlawful weapon.
Elisara Lole Fata, an untitled father of four in his late 30s, and Fata Utufua Fata, a father of six in his early 40s both died of gunshot wounds before reaching Motootua Hospital on New Years Day 2021.
Holder of at least four matai titles, Vaotuua (Vao) Faalavaau Tai’i Auleoleo Neemia Pologa was arrested by Police within hours of the incident, and charged with murder.
Over a year and a half later, an Assessor Trial was set to be heard in the Supreme Court of Samoa Monday morning before Justice Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren.
Instead, defense counsel Mauga Precious Chang stood to say her client wished to withdraw his not guilty pleas for murder, and instead, plead guilty to two counts of manslaughter.
Within 7 days of Vaotuua’s arrest in January 2021, bus loads of family members as well as Alii and Faipule from Falelatai performed not one, but two separate traditional apologies or ifoga.
Matai sat under fine mats on the front lawns of each of the two victims, asking for forgiveness and to ensure there would be no retaliation.
It was a clear cut case for Samoa police, because Vaotuua has used a low-calibre .22 millimetre handgun to shoot his two victims before dozens of witnesses including families of the victims.
Elisara Lole Fata was shot outside his home, just metres away from his wife and other family members.
Minutes later, witnesses who will now never get to testify in Court say they saw Vaotuua put two bullets into Fata Utufua Fata.
Nephews of Fata Utufua claimed they were just metres away from where their uncle was shot by ‘Vao’.
In an interview with Samoa Global News at the time, two youth said their uncle was shot point blank in the chest and then again at the back of his neck.
“He fell to his knees, and as he sat on the ground holding his chest and gasping for air, Vao (Vaotuua) placed the small pistol to the back of his neck and shot him again…”
Outside Court Monday morning, over ten police witnesses were prepared to testify to the events of 1 January 2021. Witnesses included the wife of Elisara Lole Fata, who was supported by Elisara’s parents and sisters.
Family members of the defendant’s wife from Afega were also present outside Court. Three weeks ago, they had filed a report with Police, alleging that Vaotuua had breached his bail conditions by coming to Afega. Vaotuua’s wife’s sister told Samoa Global News he had threatened them and violently pushed a young female member of the family aside.
Vaotuua is set to be sentenced for the two manslaughter charges in November.