A cleared former Teresa Cormack killing suspect who says he was wrongly jailed for unrelated offences as police tried to nail their man in the major murder hunt more than 30 years ago gets probably his last chance to clear his name in a historic Court of Appeal hearing on Tuesday.
Now 66, living in Auckland and for half his life denying involvement in any such crimes, and claiming he was being framed, Wayne Montaperto was found guilty by a jury in 1988 on kidnapping and indecent assault charges stemming from events in Flaxmere in mid-1986.
As he languished in jail after his arrest – and in 1988 sentenced to three years - rumours developed that he was the No. 1 suspect in the inquiry into the June 1987 abduction and killing of 6-year-old Teresa Cormack.
That was fuelled by a police officer's revelation that police believed the killer was a man who was in jail and who would be charged with the murder.
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After serving the sentence, Montaperto was seriously injured in an assault by a man who believed Montaperto was the killer, and it was not till 2001 that the clouds lifted, when police revealed they had the DNA profile that would ultimately lead to the conviction and jailing of Hutt Valley man Jules Mikus for the murder of the Napier schoolgirl.
Montaperto's appeal against his 1988 convictions comes about as a result of a rare Governor-General's granting of a Royal Prerogative of Mercy two years ago, giving him the chance to go back to the court where an appeal against his conviction and sentence was turned down on September 8, 1989.
His hopes of a reprieve took a big leap forward in June 2008 when a juror revealed in an email to Auckland barrister Ron Mansfield that he had told fellow jurors in Montaperto's trial that Montaperto was a suspect in the Cormack inquiry, and that it may have influenced the verdicts.
Independent lawyer Steve Bonnar, QC, then interviewed the juror and swore an affidavit based on what he had been told, but the juror later changed his mind, possibly concerned about incriminating himself in a contempt of court for revealing matters that had taken place in the jury room.
The Ministry of Justice sought advice from another QC, who said the affidavit would be sufficient for an application to produce fresh evidence, in a case where it had also been said the evidence against Montaperto was "less than overwhelming".
The appeal on Tuesday is set down for a half a day before Justices Stephen Kos, Forrest Miller and Denis Clifford.