The grieving sister of a mother-of-four who died in a suspected murder-suicide in Auckland says family buried her with her alleged killer for the sake of the children.
Toakase Finau, 29, was found dead at a Pukekohe property on March 10 when police arrived to do a bail check. A man, believed to be her ex-partner Viliami Latu, was also found at the property with critical injuries and was taken to Middlemore Hospital.
Last Saturday police announced he had died in hospital overnight.
While police initially said they were treating Finau's death as a homicide they later referred both deaths to the coroner.
Joint Tongan funeral and burial services were held for the pair by Kingwater & Sons Funerals in Otahuhu last week.
Finau's sister Lesieli Pasikala told the Herald not everyone agreed with the decision, but Finau's parents wanted the pair buried in the same plot for the children's sake.
"My mum and her dad have forgiven him," she said.
"But us younger ones, we don't understand; why would you forgive him? Why would you ever do that?
"They told us it's for the kids' sake. They will grow up and ask questions like, 'Why is he buried over there and mum over here, why aren't they put together?'
"They're still young. They don't understand how she died."
Four children with no mother
Finau leaves behind four children aged between 2 and 10. They will remain under the care of Finau's parents, their grandparents.
Finau loved her children and always put them before anybody else, Pasikala said.
"There was this one night when I walked through the door. They all kissed and hugged me.
"One of them asked: 'Where's mummy? Where's mummy?' I didn't know what to explain to them.
"Seeing them throughout the funeral services they all stood there, they don't really know what's going on. They don't know they've lost their mother and their father.
"It's so hard seeing them like that, knowing they are so young."
Panmure-Ōtāhuhu MP Jenny Salesa also fears for the future of the children. She attended the funeral service to hand-deliver a letter of support to Finau's grandparents, their new carers.
She told the Herald being a Tongan MP, she wanted to help them with any language barriers and to advocate on the children's behalf for any services they need, such as counselling and dealing with the Ministry of Social Development.
"It's really devastating for the families ... for me most devastating just seeing the kids because they are so young and that is the main reason why I went because I am concerned about the wellbeing of the children," she said.
Salesa attended the funeral service expecting it to be for Finau alone, and was surprised to learn it was also for Latu.
"We come from a culture where the aim is that it takes a village to raise a child, so for me, collectively as a society, it is at this time that we put the kids front and centre. They have to be the focus of all of our aroha - the Tongan word is ofa.
"The positive message to take out of this funeral service was to see the two families together, having a sense of forgiveness and peace. I didn't see anyone arguing or any anger expressed.
"For me, that bodes well for these four kids but it's something that needs to be carried forward because of course what happened here was violence, right? Violence that needs to be addressed."
According to Stuff, Latu had breached the conditions of his bail several weeks before the incident but had been returned to his bail address at his brother's home - the Pukekohe house where the deaths took place.
Pasikala told the Herald she knew he was abusive when in a relationship with Finau.
"I've always told her, 'It's best for you to leave, it's not good enough for you to stay in a toxic relationship. One day you will be killed', and now she's gone."
Finau stayed with her stepsister during the recent Auckland Covid-19 alert level restrictions.
"I just wish things went differently for her. I wish she told me more about what she was going through and I wish I did more to help her and her kids.
"I know that I will do as much as I can for them. I will tell them what she was like."
White Ribbon manager Rob McCann urged anyone concerned about violence within their family to address it.
"Just ask the [person involved] simple questions like 'are you okay?'. It could be the difference between saving someone's life or getting them the help they need.
"We need to move away from the idea violence is okay in someone else's house. It's not, we need to take responsibility."
McCann said children affected by violence can act out in various ways.
"The behaviour of our parents is how children learn, they don't learn from what we tell them, they learn from watching.
"If we are using violence to control someone, our children can learn that as a technique and go on to perpetrate that in their own families. It's absolutely important with children that authorities can get involved."
McCann urged anyone that needed to leave a violent relationship to talk to experts like Women's Refuge and Shine about a plan, because the act of leaving could cause escalation in violence.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If you're in danger now:
- Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
- Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz