Tongan mother’s suspicious death in Vanuatu rocks family, Tongan community

The suspicious and unexplained cause of death of a Tongan mother in Vanuatu has tormented her family and the Tongan community in that country.

Annie Joseph who was also known by the name ‘Ani Tangi Tonga, a mother of five in her early 30s, died on Thursday, January 7, in a local hospital after she allegedly collapsed in her home.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported that she was rushed to hospital with injuries from what it described as “suspected domestic violence.”

No arrest has been made. Vanuatu authorities said they had been made aware of Joseph’s death, but had not received any official complaint.

Vanuatu Police said they had contacted the family to see if they wanted to lodge an official complaint over her death.

The country’s Women’s Crisis Awareness Centre said they were investigating Joseph’s death.

The deceased was half Tongan through her father Sosefa Tonga, from Vava’u, who left the kingdom and moved to Vanuatu years ago. He married and died there.

His Tongan family from Australia flew to Vanuatu to attend his daughter’s funeral.

Annie Joseph dies suspiciously. Photo/Facebbok
Annie Joseph dies suspiciously. Photo/Facebbok

Joseph’s five children included three sons from a previous marriage and two daughters with his husband.

‘Eleni Tevi, the Secretary for the Tongan community in Fiji who was in Vanuatu and attended Joseph’s funeral, told Kaniva News the family and the Tongan community in Vanuatu were not satisfied with the report of the autopsy.

Tevi, who sought permission from the victim’s family before she spoke to Kaniva News, said they had information Joseph had experienced domestic violence

“The Tongan community in Vanuatu condemns the evil act that took one of its daughters’ lives,  well ahead of her time and leaving five motherless children,” Mrs Tevi wrote on Facebook.

Tevi said the family and the Tongan community were suspicious about the cause of  Joseph’s death.

She alleged the autopsy report was based on what had happened to Joseph on the day she was rushed to hospital and declared dead.

She said the authorities should have dug deeper into the causes of her death.

Tevi said on the day of her death Joseph returned home and told a woman she had a headache and felt as if she was burning.

She said Joseph collapsed while taking a shower. She was rushed to hospital by ambulance, but died later at night.

“It is very difficult for us because no one stands up,” Tevi said.

She said Joseph’s uncle Penisimani Tonga flew from Sydney to attend the funeral and they would talk to him to see if they could file a complaint based on their suspicions.

Tevi said they considered talking to the country’s Women’s Crisis Centre about what they believed really happened to Joseph.

She said violence against women in Vanuatu was at high level, but was regarded lightly by authorities.

Mrs Merilyn Tahi from the Women’s Crisis Centre told the Daily Post they had also received unofficial reports of the death of Joseph and had sent a staff member to ask for more information  before they commented.

On Facebook Joseph’s son Tiobang Jean Robert posted a smiling photo of her with a caption reading “I love you mum”.

Tevi described Joseph as “a very happy spirit” and said there were many tributes to her on her son’s Facebook page.

Joseph, who worked as a receptionist at The Vila Central Hospital Dental Services Unit for over 15 years was buried on Saturday, January 9.

Attempts to contact Joseph’s husband were unsuccessful.

The main points

  • The suspicious and unexplained cause of death of a Tongan mother in Vanuatu has tormented her family and the Tongan community in that country.
  • Annie Joseph who was also known by the name ‘Ani Tangi, a mother of five in her early 30s, died on Thursday, January 7, in a local hospital after she allegedly collapsed in her home.
  • The Vanuatu Daily Post reported that she was rushed to hospital with injuries from what it described as “suspected domestic violence.”
  • No arrest has been made. Vanuatu authorities said they had been made aware of Joseph’s death, but had not received any official complaint.

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