Teina Pora denied parole after soliciting prostitute

Teina Pora at his retrial in the High Court at Auckland in 2000.
Teina Pora at his retrial in the High Court at Auckland in 2000.

Convicted murderer and rapist Teina Pora is "really upset with himself" after he was declined parole for breaching his home leave conditions to visit a prostitute.

Pora was supposed to be with an authorised sponsor and visiting his daughter at the time of the encounter, the details of which were revealed in the Parole Board's decision document, released today after a hearing on October 14.

Pora is now in his 21st year behind bars for the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett in Papatoetoe, Auckland.

It was his twelfth bid for parole, and while the board said he has "done well in prison'' in recent months, he had failed to show he could be trusted in the community.

It found that he not only breached his conditions by soliciting a prostitute in central Auckland during a period of home leave, but he had also attempted to lie and evade questioning about the issue when the board confronted him.

"[T]he Board considers, sadly for Mr Pora, that his credibility was suspect and responses were not aimed at truthful explanations but rather aimed at deflecting any blame or adverse comment in relation to him,'' the decision said.

Pora's lawyer Jonathan Krebs said his client was "really upset with himself that he was unable to resist the temptation'' to visit a prostitute while out on home leave.

"That incident occurred several months ago and since then he has had a lot of home leaves, at least four periods of 72 hours, with no further concerns. He's also involved in a release to work programme in which he has received glowing reports,'' Mr Krebs said.

"We had perhaps underestimated the degree of importance that the board would place on that incident.''

He later added: "In reality you've got to remember he is a 38-year-old man who has been in custody for 20-and-a-half-years. There's some understanding that must be had for what occurred.''

Mr Krebs said he was concerned by the differing accounts the board had heard about the incident - one from a psychological report which said a woman had approached Pora on an evening walk and propositioned, which resulted in him taking her back his daughter's house and having sex; and the subsequent confession eventually garnered by the board from Pora in which he said he went to central Auckland with a former prison friend and paid for a prostitute.

"Teina is adamant that he never gave a different account, and we think it's second- or third-hand conjecture that's somehow been presented to the board as the words of Teina,'' Mr Krebs said.

"We do know other people had got word of the fact that something had occurred.''

He said his legal team would "get to the bottom of it'', before they decided whether to appeal today's decision by the board, or wait another six months until he's allowed to seek parole again.

"At the moment our focus remains on the Privy Council and establishing his innocence,'' Mr Krebs said.

"For us really it [parole] is a secondary issue. Obviously for Teina it's extremely important that he gets his liberty, but his focus is on the Privy Council.''

The board said Pora had breached two of his home leave conditions during the period he visited the prostitute - going out without his sponsor and associating with a known criminal.

Following "extreme questioning'' by the board about what happened that day, Pora eventually confessed to going into central Auckland with a friend, who he said was a former inmate he met in prison, where he obtained the services of a prostitute.

He had not been accompanied by his sponsor, whose name and address has been withheld from the decision document.

The board made clear Pora was "not sanctioned for having sex, but for his breach of known conditions and his evasion in his explanations''.

"The question is not Mr Pora's involvement with the prostitute (as he eventually described it). Rather it is the shifting of the sands by Mr Pora, as he deflected the questioning of his activity in behaving, as he well knew, outside the conditions of release on home leave,'' the board said in its decision.

"We recognise the possibility that he may have felt embarrassment but to not accept this led to telling untruths or evasion.''

The board said Pora's "lack of frankness and honesty'' was "disquieting''.

Pora was given permission for home leave to spend time with his daughter in April, and was reinstated to a work release scheme as a painter in September.

The board also noted there was concern about the media interest in Pora's case, saying he had been recognised a number of times while out in the community during such leave periods.

"Mr Pora advised that at times public attention can be overwhelming to him,'' the board noted.

But it was because Pora had shown he is "not able to meet or adhere to'' home leave conditions that it turned his parole application down.

"In the circumstances we conclude he cannot safely be released at present,'' the board said.

"It is clear that he has made progress and is well on the way to re-integration into the community. But he has shown that he cannot yet be trusted to comply with parole or release conditions whilst in the community, whether on release conditions or home leave.''

His case will be reviewed in six months time.

Pora was sentenced to life in prison in 1994, aged 17, after he confessed to the rape and murder of Ms Burdett. However, he has since protested his innocence.

He was again found guilty at a retrial in 2000, prompted by the discovery that semen in Ms Burdett's body belonged to convicted serial rapist Malcolm Rewa.

Pora has applied for leave to appeal his convictions to the Privy Council.

The Labour Party has called for a ministerial inquiry into his case, but Justice Minister Judith Collins said she would not act while there was potential for a Privy Council appeal.

He has been eligible for parole since 2003 and was last before the board in April, when it noted a lighter, screwdriver and "objectionable item'' had been recently found in his cell.

- APNZ

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