28 Sep 2015

Family wants answers after prison death

7:30 am on 28 September 2015

The family of a New Zealand-born man who ended up dead in a prison cell in Australia is demanding answers.

Funeral of Junior Togatuki.

The family of Junior Togatuki still have many questions about his death in prison. Photo: SUPPLIED

Junior Togatuki, 23, was going to deported to New Zealand despite a plea to Australia's immigration minister.

His seven-year sentence for robbery and assault ended in August, but he was kept in a high-security prison in New South Wales waiting to be deported.

Junior was four years old when he left New Zealand. His sister, Jean Togatuki, said he had no memory of the country, and he had written to Australia's immigration minister Peter Dutton begging to be allowed to stay in Australia.

He died two weeks ago; the authorities say he took his own life.

Ms Togatuki said the family was left with many questions.

Funeral of Junior Togatuki.

The funeral of Junior Togatuki. Photo: SUPPLIED

"I want to know what happened to him. I want to know who the prison officers who were taking care of him. I want everything. I want to know when did he get sick? When did he get medication? When did this all start for him? 'Cause we don't even know when he was diagnosed."

She said the family found out about his mental health problems, including schizophrenia, in the letter to the Minister.

Ms Togatuki said her brother was initally worried about being deported.

"He was shocked. He doesn't have any memory of New Zealand. He wasn't really sure about going back, he didn't want to leave us because he didn't know anything or anyone there.

"But then he came to warm to it. He actually accepted he was going back. He was looking forward to going back to New Zealand to start afresh."

Ms Togatuki said the family had a call from Junior shortly before he died, when he said he was worried the prison guards were "going to get him" and if he wasn't helped, the family "wouldn't hear from him again".

She said the next they heard from the prison was that there had been an accident, and her brother was dead.

She believes if Junior had had Australian citizenship, the outcome would have been very different.

Radio New Zealand has been asking for an interview with the Australian Department of Immigration since Friday, about New Zealanders in detention centres there.