Manslaughter trial: Dying man ‘soaked’ with urine, room smelt like a ‘dead animal’, jury hears

WARNING: Distressing content:
A man who suffered two strokes was found “soaked” in his own urine by a visiting relative who “could not breathe” due to the “really, really disgusting” stench in the room he was allegedly left to die in by his wife.

Maile Havili Kaufusi said Lanitola Epenisa, also know as Viliami Li, was sitting on an iron frame of a chair with no padding dressed only in underwear and a singlet.

“All his backside and his feet were wet so to my understanding he was left there and he was not taken to the bathroom,” she told a jury in tears, through a translator via audio-visual link from Tonga.

She pulled him to her chest.

“He could not speak but was making a humming noise. Then I talked to him, telling him ‘Do you recognise me? Your mother is really worried and loves you’,” she said.

Epenisa’s wife Malia Li is on trial at the High Court in Auckland for causing his death through “gross negligence” and failing to provide necessities as his legal carer.

He died from a blood infection caused by infected sores “all over his body” in October 2016. He was fused to the chair he died in, the Crown alleged.

Kaufusi went to Epenisa’s house after learning he was sick while visiting New Zealand from Tonga in 2016.

In the lounge she asked Li three times to see him, which Li denied. She asked Li’s daughter where her father was and the daughter pointed to a bedroom door.

Inside the bedroom Kaufusi was confronted with a smell like “a dead animal” and a rug that was soaked with what she believed was urine.

“The reason why we left is because my daughter came and stood by the door and said: ‘We should go before Malia calls the police because we are not allowed to be here’,” said Kaufusi.

“I put Vilimai back to where he has lying down. I took another cushion and placed it to where his head was and came outside and asked Malia to let us shower Viliami because he smelt really, really bad but Malia did not agree or accept. I asked her again, a third time, but she said no and asked us to leave.”

During Kaufusi’s evidence the defendant audibly sobbed in the dock.

Kaufusi said Li told her to come back the next day to shower her husband. But overnight she received a phone call in which she learned Epenisa had died.

When she arrived back at the house that night ambulance had arrived and police were cordoning off the house.

Church gifted accused cash

Tongan pastor Paula Latu visited Epenisa with a men’s prayer group from the Epsom Methodist Church and gave Li an unknown sum of cash in an envelope as a gift because her husband was dying.

A group of six prayed in the lounge before Latu went upstairs to Epenisa’s room to pray and read scripture with him.

Epenisa was lying in a bed with only his head showing, Latu told the jury through a translator via audio-visual link from Tonga.

“He did not do anything much. He appeared to be just seeing us, he knew we were there but did not speak to us.

“I read him a Bible verse and then I prayed, and then I kissed him and then I left the room.”

Epenisa, Li and their two twin daughters were staying in one room at a Māngere home of Li’s relatives in the months before his death.

The room had a “disgusting” smell, had bags of Epenisa’s soiled clothes and a nest of mice, Crown prosecutor Jasper Rhodes alleged.

“In my opinion it was satisfactory as a bedroom,” Latu told the jury.

Latu said when he visited Epenisa the room had “the scent of someone that’s sick”.

“It had a smell just off from the normal scent of a room.”

Relatives and members of the Tongan community earlier this week said Epenisa was seen left alone without food in the two houses in Māngere where he spent his final months.

Paealata Laukaupo’uli told the jury her son had to climb through the window because Epenisa was locked inside the house.

After suffering two strokes Epenisa could not walk or take himself to the toilet, the court heard.

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