David Bain had teeth knocked out, broke off an engagement and slept in a prison cot too small for his 1.93m frame - but his former flatmate and close friend says he has no "bitterness" about the 13 years he was wrongfully imprisoned.
Deborah Read, the daughter of long-time supporter Lelia Read, offered Bain a room at her West Auckland home after he was released from prison.
Read, 51, couldn't be in Christchurch for Friday's verdict due to work commitments but said Bain's freedom party was a joyous occasion.
Her 85-year-old mother sang Gilbert and Sullivan's He is an Englishman to Bain's British defence lawyer Michael Reed QC.
Supporters sung the first verse of Amazing Grace, and Bain finished singing the song alone.
Yesterday, Bain emerged from his hotel about 10am before spending the rest of the day with Joe Karam.
Read expected Bain to drive back to Auckland in his 4WD after several days of celebrations.
The friends lived together in Massey before Bain moved to Parnell last September to be closer to his job at Richard Karam's business The Coffee Guys.
"When he moved in I had an afternoon tea here and all the neighbours came to meet him," Read says.
"They came not knowing who they were meeting but within a minute they were all relaxed and smiling because David just puts people at ease."
She has left his room empty since he moved out and says "he's more than welcome to come and live here. He might want to find a quiet place to sit and meditate for a while and think".
Read said Bain made a conscious decision not to fall in love until after his fate was decided.
"He said he couldn't get into a relationship until this whole thing was over. He was engaged to Heather [Hall] for about five years while he was in prison but, eventually, when several appeals failed, Heather and he just couldn't keep going.
"He wouldn't ask her to wait. He couldn't. They both decided to part, I think. She was an opera singer, a soprano, and she now lives in Australia and she's married now with two children."
Now friends want to see him get a house and a wife.
"David could have picked and chosen anybody but he is conservative, he's chaste, he's deeply religious. He's a Quaker.
"He takes marriage and relationships very seriously. He doesn't use women. He believes the old fashioned values around women - they're to be looked after."
Read believes New Zealanders should hang their heads in shame for letting Bain endure life in prison.
"Within a short time of being in prison he had his teeth knocked out, and David's such a gentle person he just didn't see it coming. He said, 'I had to learn how to defend myself'.
"You take a gentle, academic, quiet, studious boy halfway through his university studies and stick him with a bunch of Hell's Angels who punch his face up.
"He settled into life there [prison]. He told me that they had apple fights. Boxes of apples would be delivered and one day the prisoners in one unit would declare war on the prisoners in the other unit and they would start throwing the apples up over the roof."
Visitors - sometimes up to 30 on a Saturday - kept Bain going in prison, along with a wide range of CDs.
Read speaks fondly of cooking for Bain on his release - his favourite steak and kidney pies with mashed potato.
Bain liked cooking a roast or spaghetti bolognese, loved New Zealand history, tramping and horse riding.
"Every weekend he'd be off riding with different people. Some times he'd be away for days off in the hills with his horse, camping out in woolsheds with a bunch of people."
Bain's deep-seated Quaker belief means he is not bitter about his past.
"He's come through the last 15 years and he's matured into the most magnificent man, with solid values and integrity," Read says. "He is gentle, and he is forgiving, and he has no bitterness.
"He is an awesome person, and the people who know him are absolutely privileged. I'm humbled by David."By Rebecca Milne Email Rebecca