By TONY STICKLEY
A suspect in the Claire Hills murder inquiry has hit back at what he claims is police innuendo that he was involved in the grisly killing.
Through his lawyer, Graeme Newell, the man has attacked the "trial by media" that he believes police have been encouraging.
Last month, while a television team was filming a programme about Claire Hills, someone painted the man's name on tarseal close to where she died.
The producers pixellated out the surname, broadcasting only the man's Christian name, William.
Rumours of the man's involvement began circulating soon after Claire Hills was abducted and burned to death in her car on Mangere Mountain on April 28, 1998.
Mr Newell said the man, who is in prison for sex offences, wanted to deny the insinuations.
The man found it strange that his name had appeared on the tarmac, especially as the writer wrote William rather than Willie, the name by which he is normally known.
Mr Newell said the Claire Hills killing did not fit his client's modus operandi.
The killer had gone to extraordinary lengths to destroy the evidence. His client, on the other hand, had left a trail of evidence and even spoke to his victims, giving personal information that had been used against him.
"He believes that because the police have not solved the case they are grasping at straws with anyone who might fit the profile.
"But if you look at his history, he does not fit the profile at all," said Mr Newell.
Ultimately, a suspect was just a suspect.
"If there was any evidence, they would have charged him."
TVNZ and police rejected any suggestion that they had painted the man's name on the ground.
Detective Inspector Steve Rutherford, head of South Auckland CIB, said the unknown person who daubed the name on the tarmac had sent police a three-page letter but they had no way of getting back in touch.
The writer had no evidence the man was involved, but had gathered the information from "innuendo and hearsay."
Mr Rutherford said the case did not rest solely on one suspect and "the door is wide open."
He renewed his appeal for anyone with information about the killing to come forward.
By TONY STICKLEY