Just eight months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Vicki Letele (Ngāti Maniapoto/Samoa) passed away last night surrounded by whānau.
Her brother, Dave "Brown Buttabean" Letele, confirmed her passing via Facebook saying, "My beautiful sister lost her battle tonight. She put up one of the strongest fights I have ever seen."
Vicki Letele became a nationally-renowned name when she raised the alarm on her medical care whilst in prison. When Letele became seriously ill, she was not taken for medical treatment for weeks.
In September 2016, Vicki was diagnosed with terminal cancer while serving a three-year two-month sentence for fraud. At this time, she was given only months to live.
A request was submitted by Letele's family and her medical team to the Parole Board for early release in October, which was initially denied.
Hundreds of supporters rallied outside of the Wiri Women's Correctional Facility in a "silent protest", hoping to bring attention to the request for compassionate release.
Dave Letele said then, “We were able to attract media, cause you know, who knows what could have happened if we didn't have all that. This shouldn't happen in New Zealand. You should be able to receive the care you need to get when you need it.”
Vicki underwent her first round of intense chemotherapy at Auckland Hospital in November, a week out from her 36th birthday.
On November 9, Corrections CEO Ray Smith recommended that the Parole Board considered releasing her on compassionate grounds.
She was released the next day:
Today, social media has been flooded with tributes from friends and family who woke to the news of her passing.
Vicki Letele is survived by her three children, a service will be held tomorrow in Papatoetoe.