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Vava‘u fatal house fire reinvestigation: Police ask public to ‘refrain from commenting further’

Police in Tonga have asked the public not to comment further on the incident in Vava’u last week in which a house fire claimed the life of a 46-year-old woman.

The victim Tu’imala Unise Moala died in what the Police said was a result of smoke inhalation and severe burning following an inquest’s decision.

Her body was laid to rest last week a day after her death. But her family said livestreamed videos taken at the scene of the house fire appear to have hold some important information about Moala’s cause of death.

There concerns triggered Police to reinvestigate the incident.

Tonga Police said that a team of investigators from Tongatapu were currently in Vava’u working together with local Vava’u Police in the new investigation.

“We are working closely with our counterparts from NZ Police that are currently part of the capacity development program working with Tonga Police”, it said.

Tonga Police are also in close contact with the deceased’s family members in Tonga and New Zealand.

“I ask members of the public to please respect the deceased and her family by giving them  the respect they deserve at this very difficult time. Investigations are ongoing and we are gathering all necessary information on the matter.

“We are grateful to those members of the public who have come forward and provided information, including video material. I am also asking that if anyone has information that they feel would be useful to assist Tonga Police in this matter, to bring that information forward to the Neiafu Police Station or to contact  Tonga Police Headquarters, as opposed to engaging in on-line commentary,” said Commissioner McLennan.

“I would also point out that Tonga Police and local Vava’u officials have followed established procedures as required by the Inquests Act, immediately following the house fire and subsequent loss of life. Having said that, Tonga Police intend consulting with our colleagues at the Attorney General’s Office on options to update legislation as the current Inquests Act dates from 1912 and was last amended in 1988.

Tonga Police want to ensure that current best practice models are used where sudden deaths occur and which require further investigation or inquiry.

We need to constantly review and update policy, procedure and legislation to reflect the times in which we live.

“I want the public to have confidence that Tonga Police are open and accountable, that we all need to work together, and that Tonga Police need the help and assistance of the communities that we serve, to keep our communities safe and secure”.