Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Jeremiah Malaki Tauiliili died days after being beaten at an Apia nightclub

Jeremiah Malaki Tauiliili died on Wednesday, December 5, from injuries suffered in an alleged group attack in Apia, Samoa, late last week. Photo / AUT
Jeremiah Malaki Tauiliili died on Wednesday, December 5, from injuries suffered in an alleged group attack in Apia, Samoa, late last week. Photo / AUT

Before Jeremiah Malaki Tauiliili took his last breath, his toddler son ran up to his hospital bed and asked his dad to wake up.

Now the family of the young man, allegedly beaten in a group attack in Samoa, are calling for justice over his death.

Tauiliili, in his early 20s, suffered severe head injuries and was in a coma for several days before he died at Moto'otua Hospital on Wednesday. He had spent years studying in New Zealand and grieving relatives believe at least two of his attackers are Kiwis.

A New Zealand-based relative, who did not want to be named, told the Herald the family was reeling after his death and were now seeking answers.

"Police are calling it an incident. But what we know is he was attacked.

"They punched and kicked his head. That's not an incident - that's an attack.''

The family member said they were dealing with a heartbroken partner, Tauiliili's parents losing a child and a little boy who would grow up without his father.

They were also dealing with very angry family members who wanted to see those responsible brought before the law.

"If he was sick, he was in a car crash or accident, we'd understand. But to go out like this - it's disgusting. It's horrific.

"While Malaki was in a coma, his son ran up to him and kept saying to him: 'Daddy, wake up! Come play'.

"Today when they were doing flowers...his son was saying, 'Oh, flowers', not knowing they were flowers for his dad's funeral.''

The Samoa Police Service confirmed an investigation was underway in relation to "an incident'' that claimed the young father's life.

A statement said it happened in the early hours of Saturday .

"At this point, no arrests have been made as [the] investigation is still continuing.''

Earlier, Police Superintendent Soloi Iosefo told the Samoa Observer the incident occurred at the popular The Edge Marina View bar and restaurant, known to locals as Marina, overlooking Apia Harbour.

Tauiliili spent several years in New Zealand after winning a scholarship to study here.

He attended Canterbury University before transferring to Auckland to be closer to his partner and their son, who is now 3 years old.

Tauiliili graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering Technology from AUT last December.

His family are calling for police in the island nation to do more in a bid to bring those responsible to justice and have started a series of campaigns on social media, including spreading the hashtag: #JusticeForMalaki.

The relative said they understood Tauiliili - who worked as a civil engineer for Samoa's Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure - had been invited to a private party being held at Marina when he was set upon.

They said witnesses reported to the family that up to three people were involved in the attack and at least two of the alleged attackers had links to New Zealand.

A spokeswoman for the NZ Police said they could not comment on specific cases, but confirmed that they considered all requests for assistance received from overseas authorities - in line with established protocols.

Police in the island nation are now calling for calm; saying: "There [has] been a lot speculation and threats made on social media. Samoa Police urges the public not to take the law into their own hands, but allow the law to take its course.

"Threats to any person(s) or damage to properties as a result of such actions is a criminal offence.''

In a post acknowledging Pasifika students' success, AUT shared a profile of Tauiliili ahead of his graduation.

It included words from the young man himself - and an insight into his family's humble beginnings and what he hoped to achieve for his country.

"It is exciting and overwhelming to be the first to graduate in my family - especially as I was born and raised in the small island of Samoa.

"Being from Samoa has helped me throughout my degree. It has inspired me to strive for success and I've always remembered my values.

"I came here so I could make a difference in New Zealand and in Samoa. I want to serve the needs of my community. I want to be part of something great.''

- NZ Herald

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