By NAOMI LARKIN
DNA tests have cleared the number one suspect in the Teresa Cormack murder and police still do not know who the killer is.
The Herald can reveal that police have a DNA profile of the person who sexually abused and murdered the 6-year-old but they will now have to start again to find a genetic match.
The new forensic tests, carried out in Auckland, also mean that police have to retest or rule out other suspects who have dominated the 14-year-old inquiry.
The news - due to be announced by police in Napier today - ends wide speculation and hope of an immediate arrest.
Officers now face having to take blood samples from potentially hundreds of people to make a match with the three hairs found on Teresa's body.
If any suspect refuses to give a sample willingly, the police will have to get a High Court order.
The absence of an immediate arrest also means that Teresa's attacker is not recorded on the national DNA database, which was set up in 1996. There are about 18,000 samples on the database.
Teresa vanished on her way to Richmond School in Napier on June 19, 1987, the day after her sixth birthday.
Her body was found eight days later in a shallow grave on Whirinaki Bluff beach. She had been sexually violated and suffocated.
In 1993, Napier man Wayne Gary Montaperto said he was the police's prime suspect but denied any part in the murder. At the time of the killing he lived two streets from Teresa's home in a house backing on to Richmond School.
Yesterday, his lawyer, Russell Fairbrother of Napier, confirmed that the new test results cleared his client.
Mr Montaperto was considering what legal options were available to him to get compensation for the trauma he had suffered as the main suspect, Mr Fairbrother said.
"It's dominated his whole life. It's ruined his whole life."
Police had told Mr Montaperto he was their main suspect and he had been pressured, both by officers working on the case and the publicity surrounding it, Mr Fairbrother said.
A year after Teresa's death, Mr Montaperto was jailed for three years for kidnapping children and performing an indecent act. He strongly denied the charge and said police had set him up.
Mr Fairbrother said he believed Mr Montaperto was "fitted up".
"I think they arrested him in the hope that he would confess to this [Teresa's murder]."
Mr Montaperto gave samples to police for DNA tests.
In 1988, samples taken from 21 suspects and those taken from Teresa's body were sent to England.
But after five months of testing the results were inconclusive.
DNA testing was in its infancy at the time.
In 1998, the suspects' samples were sent to the Australian Forensic Science Centre in Adelaide but still no profile could be established.
Inspector Ron Cooper, who first headed the investigation, said yesterday that 945 suspects had been interviewed throughout the country.
Samples were taken from at least 100 men.
These were people whose alibis were not watertight, sex offenders who lived in the area or others who attracted police attention for a variety of reasons, he said.
Forensic methods available today meant many of these people would have been more quickly eliminated from the inquiry.
Mr Cooper said police had not commented publicly on Mr Montaperto.
The general manager (forensic) of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, Wayne Chisnall, said DNA samples could be effectively tested years after they were collected provided they were kept in a dry place.
About half a dozen old cases had been solved by matching DNA samples with historical evidence.
By NAOMI LARKIN