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

Teina Pora blown away by what's in store in his whirlwind life

The book is in the shops and a feature film may be on the way.

Teina Pora, whose convictions for the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett were quashed last year by the Privy Council, has some lighthearted ideas for actors.

READ MORE: The one that stuck in the craw

James Rolleston, the star of Taika Waititi's Boy, would play him. Tom Cruise would be Tim McKinnel, the former detective who took up Mr Pora's case, even though Mr McKinnel at 1.90m is a good 30cm taller.

He fancies the inimitable Jack Nicholson for Jonathan Krebs and the formidable Demi Moore for Ingrid Squire, his legal team who put his case in London to four British law lords and New Zealand's Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias.

Life since his convictions were quashed in March last year has been a whirl for Mr Pora, who spent more than two decades in prison. "I never ever thought what happened would be put into a book, or the next phase, a movie, but the reality is it is happening. I was just hoping that one day I would be a free man, but never ever in my wildest dreams did I think there was going to be a book or the scale of what is happening for me right now."

A shy man, the attention is hard to get used to. "I just have to go with it and accept it as part of my life now. I'm happy the book is out there and people get to know the truth, the whole story."

After working on Auckland building sites he has moved to Taranaki where he is looking for work.

"I'm finding out where I am at. So much has happened since I got out." Auckland was fun but, "you can have too much fun sometimes".

He is living with his sister, Lobelia, and her partner who work on a farm near Opunake, and getting to know his father's side of the family. His mother died when Mr Pora was young and his father was an intermittent presence in his life.

"I think I like it there [in Taranaki]. It's slow. You can slow down and stroll across the road. In Auckland, you have to run."

The book, In Dark Places, The Confessions Of Teina Pora And An Ex-Cop's Fight For Justice, is by Michael Bennett, the maker of the award-winning 2013 documentary about the case, The Confessions of Prisoner T.

"It started for me when Tim McKinnel, who I'd never met before, rang me in February 2011 and said I might be interested in a case he was working on that was kind of like Once Were Warriors and The Hurricane [Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, an American boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder]," said Bennett.

What got him, said Bennett, was watching the nine hours of police video interview.

"I saw a 17-year-old kid, and my son, Tihema, was 17 at the time. I saw this young Maori boy, clearly bewildered, clearly confused by what was happening and making this terrible mistake that was to lead to him spending 22 years in prison.

"I wanted to do whatever I could to tell the story to help Tim in his fight to put it right."

He said the book was a way of bringing together all the threads of a miscarriage of justice and to tell the personal stories.

Mr Pora went through two trials, three Court of Appeal hearings and, finally, the Privy Council process.

The Privy Council ruled that: "The combination of Pora's frequently contradictory and often implausible confessions and the recent diagnosis of his FASD [fetal alcohol spectrum disorder] leads to only one possible conclusion and that is that the reliance on his confessions gives rise to the risk of a miscarriage."

Last June, Justice Minister Amy Adams decided Mr Pora's claim for compensation merited further assessment and referred it to retired judge Rodney Hansen, QC. His report is pending.

- NZ Herald

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