No foul play suspected in Tu‘imala’s death, Police Commissioner says

Tu’imala Moala’s death in Tonga’s Vava’u island last year was by accident and there was no evidence of foul play, says Police Commissioner Shane McLennan.

Tuu’imala Moala (nee Fulivai) died in a house fire in Vava’u, Tonga, on November 8. Photo / Supplied

The 46-year-old Kiwi-Tongan born died in a fire at her home in Neiafu, in the early hours of November 8, 2022.

Emergency services and firefighters responded to the scene about 5am local time.

Tongan Police later said that based on a doctor’s report and evidence from witnesses, the victim died from smoke inhalation and “very severe burning”.

It said that investigation had concluded with a formal inquest at 10am the day after the fatal fire. It was chaired by the district officer of Neiafu and attended by a family member of the deceased, as well as members of the community, police said.

Moala was laid to rest that day, before the Police said they were aware of talk on social media around the incident.

After about more than a week of Moala’s burial, the Police said it had reopened the case after Moala’s family said livestreamed videos taken at the scene of the house fire appeared to have hold some important clues about her cause of death.

Further investigation results

This afternoon, Thursday, January 19, Police Commissioner McLennan said : “Tonga Police’s further investigations into the tragic death of Tu’imala Moala at the Vava’u house fire on 8 November 2022 to ensure that all avenues have been properly explored have concluded it to be an accident and there was no foul play”.

“Tonga Police gathered 34 witness statements from a range of people including those who worked ith Tu’imala as well as her husband. There were also eyewitnesses who observed the fire whilst it was happening, and though they had observed it from various distances and angles, the one thing that was apparent was that the husband and a witness were calling out to Tu’imala to jump.

“They also observed Tu’imala climbing down the roof to the patio on the second level where they noticed she was walking back and forth along the patio, in an attempt to climb over the railings.

“Unfortunately, she was not successful in getting over the rails. The initial fire investigation by Tonga Fire and Emergency Services (TFES) was unable to be thorough due to bad weather at the time.

“Tonga Police acknowledge that there have been various allegations appearing on social media, predominantly on Facebook which were all been considered and subsequently have been disproven.

“We have exhausted all means at our disposal in investigating what occurred on the morning of 8 November 2022. After reviewing the file by the investigators, as well as the Police Legal Unit oversight, there is nothing that would lead Tonga Police to believe there has been any foul play.

“Before the investigation is finalized, we await the final investigation report from TFES, however, we don’t believe there is anything suspicious that is known at this stage”.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news