Four years’ jail for manslaughter

By Luke Voogt

A Tarneit teen who struck and killed a man with his car at Eastern Beach last October will spend four years in a youth detention centre.

Supreme Court judge Paul Coghlan sentenced Setefano Pahul Tupou, 19, on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May over the death of Colac father Timothy Williams.

On October 27, 2019, Mr Williams’ sister found Mr Williams near Geelong Ring Road after his car had run out of petrol and he had thrown away his phone following a trip to Warrnambool, Justice Coghlan said.

Worried that Mr Williams was experiencing a breakdown, she took him to central Geelong mental health facility the Swanston Centre, where he was admitted as a volunteer patient.

About 8pm on October 28 the centre phoned to tell her Mr Williams had not returned after going out at 6.20pm for a cigarette. She filed a missing person’s report at Geelong Police Station.

That night Tupou, then 18, and his then-girlfriend had driven to Eastern Beach carpark to celebrate her high school graduation.

They were in the car with a door open when Mr Williams punched a sign about 15 metres away.

They laughed at Mr Williams, who yelled at them and approached them.

“Then you told him to f**k off,” Justice Coghlan said to Tupou.

Mr Williams then punched the car window and kicked the drivers’ side door, and Tupou reversed before changing gear to drive at him.

The front of the car struck Mr Williams, who fell backwards, sustaining a wound to the rear of his head.

Tupou attempted to provide assistance while his girlfriend phoned triple zero.

Paramedics took an unconscious Mr Williams to Geelong hospital in critical condition. He was later taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he died on October 30.

In a police interview Tupou admitted he intended to hit Mr Williams but said he meant only to “nudge” him, Justice Coghlan said.

In the interview Tupou described his fear and feeling “protective” of his then-girlfriend, who was screaming during the confrontation.

“You admitted that you could have driven away and at the point that you were then driving the car, Mr Williams was not a threat to you,” Justice Coghlan said.

“Your response was instantaneous; however, the consequences were tragic.”

Justice Coghlan acknowledged victim impact statements from Mr Williams’ children and siblings and said no one was “taking his death lightly”.

But he found Tupou, despite “deliberately” using the car as a “weapon”, had not meant to cause “serious injury”.

Justice Coghlan said Tupou had no prior convictions and noted his “good character”, guilty plea, attempts to give assistance and cooperation with authorities.

“I am satisfied that you are genuinely remorseful.”

An alleged assault on Tupou when he was 16 caused post traumatic stress disorder that might have influenced his response that night, Justice Coghlan said.

Tupou was born in New Zealand to Tongan parents, both Australian citizens, who migrated to Australia when he was one-year-old.

Tupou faces possible deportation at the end of his sentence, which includes 50 days already served.

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