The High Court in Suva has sentenced 47-year-old Sivaniolo Vunakece to life imprisonment for murdering his 21-year-old de-facto partner in Vatuwaqa, Suva in October, 2021.
While handing down the sentence yesterday, Judge Justice Daniel Goundar said this is a case of domestic homicide, where the accused was charged with murder.
The court heard that the morning of Sunday 24 October 2021, the accused took the victim out to drink alcohol in the settlement with other residents.
After midday, they returned home and the accused went to sleep.
When the accused woke up from his sleep in the afternoon, the victim was not in the house.
He suspected that she stole his money and went to look in the settlement for the victim.
The court heard that the accused eventually found the victim drinking underneath a tree with some of her friends from the settlement.
He was furious to find the victim drinking alcohol and suspected that she used his money to buy drinks.
After pulling the victim out from the drinking group, he started physically assaulting her.
He punched her in the face. He took a timber that was lying around and hit her on the back. She fell down. He kicked and stomped her.
She got injured and started bleeding. She fell down several times, but he made her stand up and gave her further beatings till she urinated and was unable to walk.
He then carried her on his shoulders to their home. He inflicted further violence on her upon arriving at their home.
The duration of the assault was about 30 minutes.
Justice Goundar said the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge and ran a defence of provocation – If accepted; the charge would have been reduced to manslaughter.
He said the court rejected that the killing was under provocation and convicted the accused of murder.
Justice Goundar said the penalty for murder is life imprisonment and the only sentencing discretion available to the court is to set a minimum term before a pardon may be considered.
“This is a case of domestic violence resulting in death of the victim by the partner. The nature of the crime requires condemnation in the strongest terms. A life was taken away by the very person who should have protected the victim.”
“She is someone’s daughter and a mother. She did not deserve to die at the hands of a man who she was having an intimate relationship with. The victim was killed in an inhumane and degrading manner, she was subjected to public display of violence and the onlookers did not assist her.”
“When the victim collapsed and urinated, the victim carried her on his shoulders like an animal that had been hunted down and killed. He inflicted further violence on her inside their home when she was completely helpless.”
“The accused did not show any mercy to her. When the police attended to the scene, the victim was lying in the bathroom only with her undergarments on,” Justice Goundar said.
The accused spent two years in custody on remand awaiting trial.
He has 30 days to appeal his sentencing.