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

'I do wish they would apologise': Teina Pora disappointed police can't accept he's innocent

Teina Pora is disappointed that the police hierarchy cannot accept he is innocent and believes he has been treated unfairly - but he forgives them.

In a letter to the New Zealand Herald, Mr Pora, who was twice wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett and spent almost 22 years in jail, says: "I do wish they would come out and apologise and acknowledge my innocence publicly and in person, like [Justice] Minister [Amy] Adams did."

The police had been trying to find evidence against him even this year, he said. "It feels like the people in charge of investigating me have lost control and can't let it go, can't let me go or admit they were wrong."

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SCROLL DOWN TO READ TEINA PORA'S LETTER IN FULL

Last week Mr Pora accepted the Government's offer of $2.5 million compensation but has retained the option to ask the courts to review the decision not to add inflation.

"I hope I can use some of the money to do good things."

He wants to use the compensation to buy a car and travel, and has asked that his daughter and grandson be looked after.

Mr Pora wrote his letter from the Cook Islands where the family of his mother, Rita, is from. It is the first overseas trip for Pora, 41.

"She died when I was four years old. It has been special to come here, sort of sadness and celebration all in one. It feels like home. I feel connected here.

"It is so beautiful being here and knowing I am a free, innocent man. I now have a lot to be thankful for."

The diagnosis that Mr Pora has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was critical to the Privy Council quashing his conviction as it offered an explanation for the incoherent confessions he made.

Teina Pora in the Cook Islands. It is his first trip overseas. Photo / Supplied
Teina Pora in the Cook Islands. It is his first trip overseas. Photo / Supplied



But he said he does not feel he was treated fairly by the police. If they accept he is innocent and start to look for justice for Susan Burdett, "I will be happy".

Justice Minister Amy Adams read out a "statement of innocence and apology" at a press conference last week. Prime Minister John Key commented after the Privy Council quashed Mr Pora's convictions last year that he accepted Mr Pora is innocent.

The police have acknowledged but not endorsed Ms Adams' statement. They have apologised for mistakes made in their investigation, as identified by Justice Hansen, QC, appointed by the Government to assess whether Mr Pora was eligible for compensation.

Justice Hansen rejected the entire Crown case and said he could have found Mr Pora innocent at a higher standard than on the balance of probabilities - the standard required to trigger an offer of compensation.

Justice Hansen said the police inquiry appeared to suffer from a mindset that resulted in an unwillingness to re-examine the police theory of the case and a failure to critically examine suspect witnesses, even after DNA linked Malcolm Rewa - a serial rapist with a modus operandi of attacking alone - to the crimes. He also noted flaws regarding identification, disclosure and record keeping.

A request by the Herald to make an unequivocal statement last week that they accepted Mr Pora is innocent of the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett was rejected by Police National Headquarters.

A spokesman said that the police apologise for deficiencies in its investigation and accept Justice Hansen's finding that Mr Pora's confessions couldn't stand critical scrutiny. "As such, he is no longer considered a suspect in these matters, nor is he currently under any investigation".

Regarding Rewa, the spokesman said: "Police have twice charged Malcolm Rewa with the murder of Susan Burdett. The Solicitor General stayed further prosecution of Mr Rewa at the conclusion of the second trial in 1998. The Solicitor General's submission to the Privy Council was that "no exceptional circumstances exist to justify lifting that stay." However, if any new information comes to light, NZ Police may consider interviewing Mr Rewa as an option.

Police Minister Judith Collins was asked today whether she believed police should make a full and personal apology to Mr Pora.

She did not answer directly, but said that police had already acknowledged the Crown's apology, and had also apologised for the "deficiencies" in the original investigation.

Asked whether Rewa should be re-investigated for the murder of Susan Burdett, she said this was dependent on new evidence emerging.

"Police advise that if any new information comes to light, [they] may consider interviewing Mr Rewa as an option."

Teina Pora's letter to the Herald

Teina Pora wrote his letter to New Zealand Herald senior reporter Phil Taylor, whose investigations played a key role in efforts to clear Mr Pora's name.

Dear Phil,

I want to start by thanking you and the New Zealand Herald for reporting my case and what happened to me, quite a few years ago now. You were the first media to really take an interest in me since my second trial. Others had reported on my parole hearings but no one was really talking about whether I was innocent or not, until you came along. Now that I look back, it was the start of something for me. My legal team were working on my case for a while before, but seeing it reported in the NZ Herald made me realise that maybe people other than my legal team and my daughter cared about me and my case - and Susan Burdett. It was noticed by others prisoners and the guards too.

My life has been hard for a very long time; words cannot describe some of what I went through at my trials and in prison. Money can never fix that, but having the Minister of Justice accept my innocence and apologise to me in public meant a lot, more than anything. I asked the Minister to read out my apology on the day it was announced - I was not sure if she would or not - but she did and it was real. I know Minister Adams did not have to do that. But she agreed to do it and I am very thankful that she did, and the way she said it.

I have made many mistakes in my life but I want to be a good person and I want to do good things. I hope I can use some of the money to do good things. I have some ideas I am working on with my advisers. I have a small group of people who help manage me and I am putting almost all of the money into a trust, for them to manage. It feels strange that I won't control the money myself, but in the two years since I got out of prison I have realised I don't know how to manage money. I do want to buy a car and travel a bit, but otherwise I have asked that my daughter and grandson are looked after and that I do some good with it. I want to give some to the FASD Care Action Network that I know a little bit more about now.

I know there has been talk about whether I got paid enough compensation. I honestly thought I would get a little bit more for 22 years of my life in prison, in hell. My legal team have told me how much other people received per year and how much they asked for, for me. It seems like I got less than I should have. I am not complaining though. All I have asked is for is Jonathan and Ingrid and Tim to do is to do all they can to make sure I am treated fairly.

I don't think I was treated fairly by Police. But I forgive them. I do wish they would come out and apologise and acknowledge my innocence publicly and in person, like Minister Adams did. My legal team have told me that the Police have not said publicly that I am innocent. They should. If they do that, and start to look for justice for Susan Burdett, I will be happy. I know there has been a lot of talk about me in the last couple of weeks. Now the talk needs to be about who killed Susan Burdett and what the police are doing about that. At least now they will stop trying to find evidence against me. I know they have been doing that quite a lot, even this year. I don't know why they do that - almost everyone else seems to know I am innocent, and a few cops have even said to me that they know I am innocent. It feels like the people in charge of the investigating me have lost control and can't let it go, can't let me go or admit they were wrong.

While I write this I am in the Cook Islands, where my mother's family is from. She died when I was four years old. It has been special to come here, sort of sadness and celebration all in one. It feels like home, I feel connected here. It is so beautiful being here and knowing I am a free, innocent man. I now have a lot to be thankful for.

Teina Pora

- NZ Herald

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