A murder and suicide shock the Tongan community in New Zealand

Toakase Finau

By Kalafi Moala


The youngest child of a murdered mother, Toakase Finau, 29, was left with her grandmother, ‘Alilia Teu Kata to care for. Kata told Police her daughter Finau was with her before she left for the town of Pukekohe, just outside of Auckland, the week before her death.

She took care of her granddaughter Siunipa when Finau left. Finau did not know she was never going to see her daughter again. The last contact from her was a text message to Kata checking on the 3-year-old child to make sure she was okay.

Finau’s body was found in a car last week, believed by Police to have been killed by her husband.

The husband has been identified as Viliami Latu, who was on electronically monitored bail before the tragic incident occurred. He is reported to have breached bail several weeks before the killing which occurred at his brother’s house in Pukekohe.

Detectives believed Latu killed Finau before he took his own life. No other details have been released by Police, but the reports received from those who knew the couple only confirmed what close family and friends knew, that it was only a matter of time before something tragic would happen, figuring the constant abuse and violence suffered by Finau at home.

There are no reports whether Latu was a drug user or not, and whether the couple have had counseling and help for their marriage. But one thing seemed certain, that Latu by the very acts he committed demonstrated serious signs of mental illness. Police investigation continues.

Latu is another statistic in the spiraling and frightening rise of suicidal deaths in New Zealand. In terms of deaths from suicide, New Zealand leads the Pacific, and is one of the leading nations in the world in suicides attempted.

Suicide due to mental illness has also been confirmed in New Zealand as becoming more common among Pacific Islanders, especially among Samoans and Tongans.

Latu and Finau were Tongans. They are survived by four children, the oldest being 10 years-old, and the youngest 3 years-old.

Kata, the grandmother, told police that she will take care of Siunipa, the only daughter, and youngest, and the three older brothers would also be with her “for now.”

Stuff News reported the couple used to live in a rented house in the Auckland town of Otara, amid a significant number of Tongan residents. It is reported, “Neighbors and people who shared a house with the couple at their former rental property… have described an abusive relationship where Finau would often be seen with injuries including black eyes.”

There were also those who described Latu as dangerous when at times he “wandered the streets of Otara with a machete after staying up for days at a time.”

Grandmother Kata said a note was found with Finau’s body on Wednesday. She said Finau was with her before she left for Pukekohe the week before her death.

She said she told Finau to leave her only daughter Siunipa with her. Finau later texted Kata to ask if her daughter was okay. Kata said that was the last she heard from her.

The murder of Finau and suicidal death of Latu have shocked the Tongan community in New Zealand, especially in Auckland. Being the city with the largest Tongan population in New Zealand, the deaths have brought a ripple effect in the community as families reflect yet again on the vital importance of relationship for it determines the kind of social outcome in any family.


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