The man who murdered former Canberra Comanchero commander Pitisoni Ulavalu has been sentenced to 20 years in jail.
- Bikie boss Pitasoni Ulavalu was killed during a fight at Kokomo’s nightclub last year
- Frederick Tuifua pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing Mr Ulavalu in the neck in front of members of the public
- Tuifua was today sentenced to 20 years in jail for murder, with a non-parole period of 10 years
Frederick Tuifua, 27, made his first appearance in the ACT Supreme Court today, when he was formally sentenced for murder and for stabbing a second man during a fight at the Kokomo’s nightclub in July 2020.
Until now, the case had been conducted by video link because of COVID-19 restrictions.
But today the families of both men were allowed into court, although they were separated on different sides of the room as Tuifua watched through the glass of a closed dock.
Tuifua was sentenced to 20 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 10 years.
‘I’m a coward’, Tuifua tells court
In court today, Mr Ulavalu’s partner read a victim impact statement, expressing her grief and loss after the murder.
She said the situation was all the more painful because she was 14-weeks pregnant at the time, and is now a single parent.
“There’s a special bond a father and child have, something my child will never experience,” she said.
She urged Justice Michael Elkaim to consider the hurt and devastation Tuifua had caused when sentencing him.
During the hearing, many family members became distressed, some having to leave the room as footage of the fight which led to Mr Ulavalu’s death was played.
Tuifua also took to the stand, telling the court how he could not understand his actions.
“I watch the video and I do not know who that person is,” he said.
“I had a life and I’ve thrown it all away.”
Under questioning from prosecutor Anthony Williamson, Tuifua proffered one explanation:
“I’m a coward,” he said.
“You might be a coward but the question is why did you do it?” Mr Williamson asked.
“I don’t know,” Tuifua said.
‘No explanation’ for fatal attack
The court heard Tuifua had gone into the club with a group of men to retrieve a bag one of them had left there.
In the video played to the court, Tuifua can be seen with the knife as he goes into the bar and later during the fight.
Tuifua told the court he had it with him for protection.
But he agreed with Mr Williamson that he had not been punched or attacked, and that Mr Ulavalu had been trying to calm things down and the other victim had been restrained when Tuifua stabbed him.
“I’ve been trying to explain that myself,” he said.
“I do not have an explanation.”
Tuifua’s lawyer Bret Walker urged the court to take into account his letter of apology to the family and his contrition.
“There’s no reason to doubt the sincerity,” Mr Walker told the court.
“The shame, the self-description as a coward.”
Mr Walker said none of that ameliorated the horror of what happened, but showed insights not usually displayed by offenders.
Knives are not fashion accessories: judge
In sentencing, Justice Elkaim noted that the CCTV footage of the attack did not support Tuifua’s version of events.
“He suggests that the fatal stabbing was not intentional; rather the knife was being carried for self-defence and was usually with him in case circumstances required such a defence,” he said.
“The knife was being held for some time before the stabbing, it was held by him before he went into the club and before there was a disturbance in the club.
“The suggestion that he was reacting to a chair being thrown at him is also defeated by the CCTV footage.
“I have little doubt that the offender was an aggressor that night and not a person acting to minimise harm to himself.”
Justice Elkaim said Tuifua did have the capacity to return to the community and contribute to society, but first must be punished.
“He and others must know that resorting to violence, even simply carrying a knife, are not acceptable modes of behaviour,” he said.
“Every person that carries a knife, or some other weapon, must know that it is an implement capable of causing great harm and fatal harm.”
Justice Elkaim quoted from another judge, that a knife was not a fashion accessory.
Tuifua was also today sentenced to one year in jail for a prison attack in which he played a minor role.
Tuifua will serve that sentence first, before beginning his 20-year term.
He will be eligible parole in 2031.