Phil Taylor

Phil Taylor is a Weekend Herald and New Zealand Herald senior staff writer.

Teina Pora case: Police fear miscarriage of justice

Teina Pora
Teina Pora

In an unprecedented move, the Police Association is calling for an independent inquiry into the conviction of Teina Pora, who is now into his 21st year in prison for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett.

President Greg O'Connor told the Weekend Herald that the request was the first in the 16 years he has led the association, which represents rank-and-file police officers, but he believes it is justified on this occasion.

It should not be run by the police but could be a ministerial inquiry conducted by a Queen's Counsel. "It's a justice-sector issue. It's not a police issue. The police can't walk up to the prison and say, 'Let him out'."

Mr O'Connor said there were sufficient issues that raised the prospect that a miscarriage had occurred, and significant disquiet among police.

"This is a case that really does need a review. There are enough experienced police from the time and even from now who are uncomfortable with the fact that Teina Pora is in prison for this crime."

The association was hearing concerns from more and more police, he said. "I think it is one that needs a review quite quickly."

Mr O'Connor said there had always been a number of police, particularly in South Auckland, who weren't comfortable that Pora was the offender, and had been surprised when he was convicted at his second trial.

The Weekend Herald first revealed in May last year that the detective whose expert testimony convicted Malcolm Rewa of raping Ms Burdett believed Pora was wrongly convicted of her murder.

In 1996, DNA testing showed the semen inside Ms Burdett, who was killed in 1992, belonged to Rewa, a serial rapist who was unknown at the time of Pora's trial but was convicted in 1998 of raping her.

Detective Dave Henwood, a multi-award-winning criminal profiler, said there were no doubts in his mind Rewa committed the crime alone, and that Pora was innocent.

Since then, more doubt has been cast on Pora's conviction, including revelations on TV3's Third Degree this week that a woman raped by Rewa two weeks before the attack on Ms Burdett said she, too, believed an innocent man was in jail.

The programme also discovered that before Pora's first trial, police had believed Ms Burdett was attacked by a serial rapist but did not disclose this to Pora's lawyers.

Yesterday, Mr O'Connor said some police were cynical of what he termed "the innocence industry" and Pora's case might have suffered as a result.

"This one appears to have much more substance to it. Most of these campaigns to release people are pretty fanciful and draw pretty long bows, whereas there are sufficient doubts among quite senior detectives, and the public, that this is one that is worthy of a review."

The Labour Party, Maori Party and the Criminal Bar Association have also called for an inquiry.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said last night that it would be "completely inappropriate" for her to intervene while Pora's legal team were preparing an appeal to the Privy Council.

Meanwhile, the investigator who says there is new evidence to show Pora is innocent has accused the police hierarchy of being myopic, selective and wasting public money.

Tim McKinnel, a former police detective, has collected new expert opinion evidence that concludes Pora gave a false confession and that Rewa attacked Ms Burdett on his own.

He has questioned the police's refusal to review the whole case and attacked its claim that Pora, Rewa and an unknown third man were involved.

"This talk of a third offender is not supported by any evidence other than Teina Pora's (false) confessions. I can't see how they can justify spending probably tens of thousands of taxpayers' dollars on this ridiculous search for somebody that any objective review will show doesn't exist.

"If they were genuinely looking for a third offender, why did they do nothing for 10 years?"

Police were prompted to begin work on the Burdett file again when Mr McKinnel and barrister Jonathan Krebs began an investigation on behalf of Pora four years ago. "The issue I have (with the police's approach) is why embark on this expensive forensic search when there is a whole area of psychological science that has developed since the trials and not examine that?" Mr McKinnel said.

Pora's team has twice taken the police to court to try to force them to hand over information. Police have said that each request has been assessed in terms of the Official Information Act and privacy laws.

Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess and Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock were unavailable.

Pora is seeking legal aid for his Privy Council appeal. Mr Krebs said he would otherwise pay for it or seek alternative funding.


The Teina Pora file

Back story

• Teina Pora was convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of Susan Burdett in her home. He was convicted again in a retrial in 2000. New expert evidence suggests he may have been convicted on a false confession. An increasing number of experts and some former senior police believe he is innocent. He is preparing to appeal to the Privy Council.

• Malcolm Rewa was convicted in 1998 of raping Ms Burdett after he was linked to semen from the scene. Two juries could not reach a decision about whether he murdered her. Rewa is serving preventive detention for solo attacks on 25 women.

• TV3's Third Degree this week revealed that police believed Burdett's attacker was a serial rapist before Pora was put on trial but did not disclose this to his lawyers.

Herald revelations

• The police's own expert criminal profiler - whose evidence was key to convicting Rewa - has "no doubts" that Pora is innocent.

• The world's leading expert on false confessions says Pora's confessions are "fundamentally flawed and unsafe".

• A second senior officer involved in the Burdett case has written to the police commissioner with concerns about Pora's conviction.

• Police paid key witnesses but have refused to release details.

• A British profiling expert says it is "highly unlikely" Rewa would have worked with anyone, let alone Pora.

- NZ Herald

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