What would you do if your children had to witness someone sniffing petrol and acting inappropriately?
That’s the question being asked by the son and daughter of a prominent Cabinet minister following on from an assault against Ngametua Tiatoa at Avarua Wharf on January 24.
The incident was witnessed by a large group of people.
A number of those eye-witnesses came forward and told Cook Islands News and police they believed the wrong man, Tiatoa, who was also reported to be homeless, was arrested.
But MP George Maggie and his children Apii and Mareta strongly refute this claim and want people to know about the events leading up to this incident.
“How can those witnesses know what happened when they were hundreds of metres away,” Mareta said.
Cook Islands Police confirmed Tiatoa was charged with assault and will be sentenced on February 20 as previously advised.
Police did not wish to comment any further.
The siblings decided to get in touch with Cook Islands News to have the chance to put their side of the story.
“We are a family who fronts up and tells the truth, we apologise when we are wrong,” Mareta said.
“But we feel in this case we didn’t get the chance to tell our side of the story.”
On January 24, Mareta decided to take some children, including her brother Apii’s for a swim at Avarua Wharf.
While in the water, she noticed Tiatoa with a three litre plastic bottle that was filled with petrol.
“He was looking in the direction of the kids and I started to get nervous, there were a lot of children swimming that day, not just ours,” she said.
Tiatoa locked eye contact with Mareta, so she asked the oldest child with her at the time to watch the younger children while she went to speak to him.
But by the time she got to the carpark, Tiatoa was standing by her car.
“He looked straight at me and kicked the car leaving a dent in the back bumper,” she said.
Frightened by what he might do next, Mareta grabbed her phone and called her partner who was at work at the time. She asked him to go down to the wharf.
Her partner rang the minister’s son Apii.
Apii admits “he was breathing fire and saw red” when he found out what his children had witnessed and that anger took over when he hit Tiatoa, who fought back.
He asked the police officer not to touch him and rejects the claim made by witnesses that he shoved her.
But after heading home to calm down and making sure his children were OK, he returned to the police station and asked to see Tiatoa.
“I took him in my arms and said I forgave him and that I was sorry for what had happened and hoped he knew why I reacted the way I did because I’m a father and I don’t want my kids exposed to that behaviour,” he said.
“I also offered my support through his addiction issues and said ‘you are my people, I’m here for you if you need anything.”
Apii also said he understands why people think his family resorts to violence to solve problems.
“We have earnt that reputation and I own that. But we also know what is right so once again I ask the question, what would you do?”