Star’s sickening violence against partner revealed
Actor Pua Magasiva's dark final days can now be told - as he is revealed as a man who repeatedly beat his wife and was convicted of assault just two weeks before his death.
Now, after the lifting of a court suppression order today, Magasiva's widow Lizz can finally tell her story after suffering regular physical and emotional abuse during the two-and-half-year relationship.
She says her husband "refused to acknowledge his history of domestic violence in case it ruined his career".
The 38-year-old entertainer - best known for his role as Shane Clarke, the Red Ranger from Power Rangers Ninja Storm - died suddenly on May 11 during a visit to Wellington with his wife. His death has been referred to the coroner.
The Shortland Street, Power Rangers and Sione's Wedding star had been enjoying a night out with friends at a bar at the InterContinental hotel.
But, those who knew what happened, were keeping his dark secret.
Just 15 days prior the actor had been sentenced to six months' supervision and 70 hours of community work for assaulting his wife.
Magasiva's name was suppressed until today.
At his sentencing, Judge Claire Ryan declined an application for permanent name suppression.
An interim name suppression order, however, was made to allow Lizz Magasiva, 33, an opportunity to appeal to the High Court.
Magasiva died before a hearing could be held.
District Court Judge Allan Roberts then made the name suppression order permanent.
But he did so under a misapprehension, not realising the application was by Magasiva's first wife, Kourtney Ngaamo, rather than Lizz, who was not even asked for her views.
Once the existence of the suppression order was known, however, it was challenged by Lizz Magasiva and media.
Judge Pippa Sinclair then declined to continue the gag order in September but Ngaamo appealed the decision to the High Court where Justice Grant Powell again dismissed efforts to suppress Magasiva's name.
At 12am today the suppression order ended.
Magasiva had married Lizz, a teacher, in April last year - 18 months after they met on Instagram.
The pair each had a young daughter from previous relationships and on social media appeared to have a loving life together.
But in June last year, after spending an evening at a Takapuna restaurant with friends, the couple reached boiling point.
It led to Magasiva assaulting Lizz, which included spitting in her face and putting her in a headlock.
In a letter to the court after the attack and her husband's death, Lizz said "silence has not been the appropriate course of action".
"In the past you have received letters from me which were carefully constructed under the supervision of my husband," she said.
"I love my husband and I would do anything for him which included not signing a statement to the police ... and not being truthful so that I may always protect him."
Magasiva, she said, refused to acknowledge his history of domestic violence, fearing it would end his career.
"I wanted to face the truth together and speak truthfully but Pua desperately wanted to protect his career, so I was silenced.
"When permanent name suppression was initially not granted my husband was incredibly worried about losing his career," Lizz said in her letter to the court opposing continuing name suppression.
"He knew I would support him but this did not prove enough so I was preparing to apply for name suppression to the High Court."
Lizz said she would have appealed the court's decision to protect her husband's career, but was also "terrified" his anger and drinking habits would return.
"Now it is very evident that if I had told the truth in the first place and not been silenced then Pua may have gotten the help that he needed and I could have had a voice," the widow said.
"The lies and pressure to maintain his image has placed me under immense stress and placed me at further risk of violence."
THE NIGHT PUA MAGASIVA DIED
On the night her husband died, Lizz said his anger and drinking had again returned.
"It ended with me in hospital and him taking his life," she said. "The trauma from losing my husband is going to be with me for the rest of my life."
Lizz said if she wasn't forced to stay silent due to the court order she could have worked through her grief, trauma and anxiety.
"I think domestic violence is something people are afraid to talk about, certainly I was as I hid this our whole relationship - endless excuses and lies has taken a toll on my mental wellbeing.
"Only when a stranger found me after the assault last year did I go to the police."
Lizz Magasiva said she blamed herself because "he blamed me".
"I did everything in my power to protect and lie for him but now I have a chance to be heard and speak my truth.
"I am also speaking for my daughter, Laylah, who lived with us full time and has been a witness to my husband's ongoing violence - I need to have a voice for her to show her that this is not okay.
"As a victim in this continuous cycle of silence I do not wish for name suppression because this would silence me again, but now by those who wish to protect him and the system allowing them to do this."
She did not want to dishonour Pua Magasiva's memory but also said she didn't want to be "revictimised by being forced to hold the truth alone in silence".
"I am still healing from this offending behaviour and his death which occurred after a night of anger and further assault," she said.
"This is my pain, this is my truth and I need to have the ability to speak freely in order to get through this - I cannot do this in silence. I ask please that the silence end."
TV STAR'S DARK SIDE
In a separate letter to the court, Lizz's father Ronald Sadler said "there had been many instances of violence" during her daughter's relationship with the former TV star.
"All a father ever wants for a daughter is happiness and fulfilment and in Pua I thought Elizabeth had found that person.
"Unfortunately the dark side had been covered up by my daughter and when I heard about the serious assault in June last year, I was shocked and my immediate feelings were for my daughter's safety and wellbeing."
Sadler said his daughter assured him Magasiva was going through counselling.
"But I now realise that she was in a 'catch 22' situation. She was putting on a brave face on an otherwise violent and desperate situation.
"There had been many instances of violence. Times when Pua had smashed her phones, punched holes in the walls and doors and times where he used horrific violence such as the incident in June 2018 when he had tried to strangle Elizabeth."
In many of the incidents, Sadler continued, alcohol was involved.
"One time when he lost his licence for drink driving in 2017, he had a fit of rage and when Elizabeth tried to stop him driving his motorcycle, he proceeded by running over her foot and burning her leg and foot. A neighbour saw what had happened and rang the police."
Sadly, Sadler said, the seriousness of Magasiva's domestic violence issues came to a fore during a breakfast with his granddaughter earlier this year.
"That morning Laylah proceeded to demonstrate and tell me that Pua had placed his hands around mummy's neck indicating that he had tried to strangle her.
"When challenged, it was evident that Elizabeth was putting a brave face on the situation and I said to my wife that nothing good would come out of this and that I was concerned for her safety.
"I now know that Laylah had witnessed the domestic violence first hand on several occasions."
Over the years, he continued, it was incredibly hard as a father to watch his daughter suffer at the hands of Magasiva's violence.
"Each time we saw holes in the walls around her house and the bruises she couldn't hide, Elizabeth would assure us that he was sorry and it wouldn't happen again.
"We tried to intervene but Elizabeth would not have it and we were fearful that Pua may cut her off from seeing her family and we couldn't risk that - especially with our granddaughter Laylah."
There wasn't a day that goes by, Sadler said, that he didn't wish he could have done more but "we were just there to help her survive this".
On the night of Magasiva's death, after his phone rang at 1am, Sadler said his "heart sank".
"I knew this could be the phone call I had been dreading only this time he had taken his life after yet another attempt to end my daughters."
Sadler said he was "shocked and heartbroken" to see his daughter shunned and blamed by Magasiva's family at his funeral.
"Not acknowledged or supported as she had lied to protect his name for so long and they had known the truth.
"We are all saddened by Pua's passing, but there is only one victim of this domestic violence who is now left to pick up the pieces and that is Elizabeth."
Sadler said his daughter's love for Magasiva was genuine and understanding the "trauma of events where her life was in danger is almost beyond comprehension.
"However, the physical and emotional scare are indelible and it is now time for the healing."
He was proud his daughter had the fortitude and courage to speak to police, but said she had not signed a statement because "she genuinely was scared for her life".
"I now understand how intimidated and manipulated she was by Pua - she desperately tried to keep him from harming her again by lying for him to the police and not signing her true statement which explained the seriousness of his acts of violence that evening in June 2018."
There was also the intimidation of name suppression, Sadler explained, as Lizz received threats, including on her daughter Laylah's life.
"Every day is a battle and seeing her struggle with years of trauma and her third concussion from Pua is extremely hard. Elizabeth is a victim again by having to keep silent - the lifting of name suppression is surely an integral part of some justice for her so that she does not have to keep up this lie."
The June 2018 incident was also not the first time Magasiva had been before the courts with hints of family violence.
He was earlier convicted for drink driving three times, the latest occurring after an argument with Lizz in October 2017 as they hosted a children's Halloween party.
Magasiva, who had been drinking wine, left on his motorcycle for his brother's house after a quarrel with his wife.
But when he decided to return a police car was waiting outside his home.
As a result, in March 2018, the actor was sentenced to 80 hours' community work, 12 months' supervision and disqualified from driving for 13 months for the drink-driving conviction.
But it wasn't long before he was back before the courts again.
Just a few months later he was charged with driving a vehicle contrary to his limited licence after being caught driving along State Highway 16 on August 1 last year.
Magasiva was fined $400, ordered to pay court costs of $130, and disqualified from driving for six months for the breach.
His two other drink-driving convictions came in 2003 and 2005.
This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was republished with permission