When Teina Pora was released after 22 years in jail for a murder he didn't commit, someone was needed to guide him back into society. Someone who had been there, done that.
That person was Fa'afete Taito, a former King Cobra gang member who spent a total of 15 years in jail and then turned his life around.
Since he walked free in 2007, Taito has become drug free, severed connections with the criminal world and earned a university degree. A state ward himself, his work currently includes helping the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State Care reach the hard cases - those on the fringes with stories that need to be heard.
Taito was one of those hard cases. For the first time, he tells Phil Taylor his rare and remarkable story.
His name is Fa'afete Taito but everyone knows him as Fete (pronounced Fecky) or by his nickname, Feetz.
He is a big Samoan man, with a booming laugh, but whose size and tattoos make it easy to imagine how intimidating he might have been during his 38 years in the criminal world.
As he talks over mugs of tea in the kitchen of his step-daughter's Te Atatu home, the wonder is he made it across the gulf from the underworld to mainstream life.
His was a life of boys' homes, gangs and crimes including aggravated robbery and drug dealing. There were plenty of scrapes. "Yeah, hard out," he says, "I've been stabbed. Skinheads on K Road."
Friendships forged in borstal and prison crossed gang affiliations and saved him more damage, such as when he was heavily outnumbered by Mongrel Mob members during a turf dispute. He'd been locked up with one of them and so was spared.
Ín 2016, Taito attended the funeral of Roy Dunn, founder of the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob, who later in life tried to combat the scourge of methamphetamine.
They had met in Waikeria as boys when the Waikato prison was a borstal. Dunn was put in state care at the age of seven for stealing a bike; Taito was 14, a runaway and a thief, when he was sent to Owairaka Boys' Home.
Those places were breeding grounds for gangs, he says. All the talk was all about prospecting for one gang or another. "That's how that environment is. It is just like going to school and talking about going to university. Here, it is prospecting and then, one day, a patch."
He and Dunn's paths crossed again in prison and then, extraordinarily, through Teina Pora years later. Dunn was one of two Mongrel Mob members Pora falsely implicated in the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett during five days of police interviews that saw Pora charged and convicted with the crimes.
After Pora was released on parole 22 years later, he fulfilled a promise to apologise to Dunn in person. Taito went with him.
He is less impressed with Malcolm Rewa, a serial rapist whose DNA was found in semen at the crime scene and who was this year convicted of Burdett's murder.
Taito tells of losing a bet on Rewa - known as Hammer - in a fight in Mt Eden Prison in the 1980s organised to settle a dispute between Rewa's gang, Highway 61, and the Headhunters.
"Hammer was built like a brick s***house, like rock, muscle on muscle. The Headhunter knocked him out with one punch. I had to pay out 16 chocolates that week. That was the currency.
"He was hopeless, bro. He was only good with something in his hand."
There was no blueprint for Taito to follow to break away from that life. Rehab programmes in prison didn't help. He credits a few good women, most important of whom is Viv, his partner of 28 years who he lives with in Kumeu. She helped him quit meth and then encouraged him to study.
That meant humbling himself. As a senior gang member and a drug-dealer, he had money, fast cars and status. Suddenly, he was commuting by bus to Auckland University.
Taito tells of bumping into a former colleague in Fort St while walking to Britomart to catch his bus. The colleague, a meth cook and dealer who owned apartments and a nice house, told Feetz he'd heard he'd gone straight but didn't believe it.
The man told that he'd heard he was at university. "He looks at me and says, 'you're doing chemistry aren't you bro'."
Taito politely declined the man's offer to meet up again. You can't be half in that world and half out, he says.
Taito talks at length about drugs: using, selling, how they affect you and the ordeal of quitting. He was 12 or 13 when he first smoked cannabis. In prison in the 1980s it was "heroin and at night, dak to zone out".
"I have taken, as you can imagine, most drugs," he says. It comes with the territory of a gangland drug dealer. Of all of them, he thinks methamphetamine has most changed New Zealand.
When he got to university, he heard the world he inhabited for so long described as a subculture. "But I don't see it as a subculture. What I see is parallel worlds and in between is what I call the peripheral. Some people in mainstream drift into the peripheral so they can grab drugs for social occasions."
Some don't make it back. He saw the drug take over "straights" who were his clients, saw their usage go from monthly to fortnightly to weekly, saw them save a portion for the "Sunday blues, when the party's over and that feeling of dread comes over you".
Eventually, they can't get up Monday. "What P does to you is it creates a persona that you want. It's a mindf***. You talk openly but not truthfully. It gives you a sense of bravado."
Few can control it. After a decade using methamphetamine, Taito admitted to himself that he had lost control. That was 2009. Getting off it took him most of the year. Family - he was by then a grandfather - was the motivation.
He does a count of friends from that time who are currently in jail: one is doing 20 years, another 16, another 15. "There is a 90 per cent chance I would be doing that time as well [if he hadn't quit meth] and I would have lost Viv, lost a lot of my family connections."
Taito himself spent 15 years in jail on and off, his last release in 2007. He has five sons from previous relationships while Viv has a daughter. He has 17 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Taito says he drew on a mental strength developed from nearly four decades in that world. "That's my message," he says, "you can call on that strength. Most choose not to because it is easier not to, and it's easier not to because that world relies on macho-ness and that whole male peacock bulls***. Posturing, where you strut your stuff, that's all that world is."
He threw away his phones - "I had three phones, as all drug dealers do," he laughs - and moved into a small room at his sister's home.
"Walking and talking" is how he describes his process of dealing with withdrawal. Viv was by his side. On the walks, Taito would take a cannabis joint as a kind of insurance. The day he forgot it was a milestone.
"Should I go back home and get a joint or keep walking? I kept walking.
"It is hard to put into words but a feeling of overwhelming depression hits you. It's like there is a voice in your head saying 'what are you doing? Go get some s***.' I remember just sitting there on a fence during my walk, unable to get up for maybe half an hour before walking on. And that's the thing, to keep going."
Getting clean made him realise he had no friends in the mainstream world and that he didn't know how to talk to straight people. "I'd be introduced and I'd go, 'yip'. And Viv would say, 'Honey, just say something, say hi, how are you'."
When people asked what he did, Taito would respond, "Why? Are you a cop or something?"
Expressing gratitude had to be learnt. Please and thank you were foreign to him. "You lose the ability to be emotive," he says. Many in gangs are from dysfunctional or broken homes, don't know love, don't cry and cease to care.
By the end of 2010 he was confident enough to enrol at Auckland University. He graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in sociology and Māori studies.
For someone whose schooling was over by the age of 14, it's quite an achievement. Taito was a runaway, spending days living on the streets and stealing from cars. Usually, he'd be sent back home, until a Youth Court judge asked his parents whether they wanted him home.
"My father shook his head, my mother was crying. I didn't register what was said after that. All I could see was my mum and dad walking out."
His parents had come to Auckland from the village of Tafa Tafa on Upolu for opportunities. His father laboured in meat processing plants and later on the wharves. As a teenager, Taito discovered he was adopted by reading a social welfare report. His biological mother was an aunt.
Taito was placed in Ōwairaka Boys' Home, one of many residential state care facilities where more than 100,000 children were placed from the 1950s to the 1980s. The homes were intended as a buffer, to steer those placed in them away from delinquent paths. For many, the opposite occurred.
These homes are covered by the scope of the inquiry into historical abuse in state care and faith-based institutions. Taito, who described harsh treatment in state care, says it's needed in order to move forward. Oranga Tamariki, he says, still removes a couple of children a week from Māori homes. "You can change the name as much as you like but the process is still the same."
He is using his contacts from when he was in state care and in the gang world to approach those who may have stories relevant to the inquiry.
He says this has to be approached carefully because most don't trust the authorities.
Taito quotes the response of one man he recently spoke to: "'The Government doesn't care about us, bro. The shit they done to us. What are they gonna do about it? That's them isn't it? It's them that done that to me.'"
Taito adds: "That's the barrier we are going to have to cross."
He has a list of people he wants to thank: those who stuck by him despite everything and those who positively influenced him. There's his mother, Moto'otua Taito, who died in 1997 while he was in jail, his whangai parents, Miriama Ruahihi and Tigilau Ness, founding members of The Polynesian Panther Party, which was formed at the time of the dawn raids of the 1970s.
There's sociology professor Tracey McIntosh, neuropsychologist Dr Valerie McGinn, a specialist in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and Pablo Sinclair, of Fort Knox gym, who Taito met after his weight reached a dangerous 194 kilograms.
Sinclair guided Taito on a fitness regime that saw Taito lose 35 kilograms and, a year later, run the 2018 Auckland Half Marathon.
When Taito told Sinclair he wasn't capable of doing it, the gym guy replied, "don't ever say can't".
"I was dying on the bridge. My son [Enesi, who ran with him] was encouraging me, saying 'Kia Kaha dad'."
"When I came into Victoria Park and got closer to the finish there were all these people cheering me, calling 'C'mon big fella'. They didn't even know me and they were cheering me. It was just amazing."
Because of his own transformation, Taito was approached by Pastor Billy Ratimana and his wife Winnie, who Pora lived with after being released on parole, to be his mentor.
"It's a big job and a never-ending job and it is compounded by his foetal alcohol spectrum disorder [FASD]," says Fete Taito, who has supported Pora since his release on parole in 2014.
"Teina sees me in a different light from the mainstream people he knows, as someone who knows what he is going through."
Taito is sometimes amazed he managed to change his own life and says he had the advantage of a supportive partner. "And, I don't have FASD."
The disorder, caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb, is a form of brain damage that affects Pora's ability to remember things, articulate his thoughts, understand questions and think through the consequences of his actions.
The diagnosis, in 2013, helped explain why Pora made a vague confession over several days to police investigating Burdett's murder.
Pora was 17 when he was jailed and 38 when he was released. Though his convictions have been quashed and Pora has received a government apology and compensation, he still spent more than two decades in jail, says Taito.
"What he has learned ... is just deviant behaviour. All the bad things of life. And unfortunately for Teina that is the life he knows.
"He has come up against all the bad influences of his life [and] he has walked down that road.
"When he came out of jail, the only people he knew were those sorts of people. I understand this more than anyone."
"I realised, s***, I have no friends in this mainstream world. Who can I have a drink with? Who can I talk to?"
People who fought Pora's legal case, while supportive also have to move on with their busy lives, says Taito, who speaks to Pora daily. As well as providing encouragement, Taito helps him with things most people take for granted, mundane stuff such as contracts with utilities companies.
"If you are not there 24/7, he looks elsewhere. As much as we try to guide him and give him the best advice, it's difficult when he has other people in his ear."
A government compensation package totalling $3.5 million was paid. The money was invested in incoming-producing assets from which Pora receives an allowance.
As much as FASD has damaged Pora, Taito feels it is now almost a blessing. "Sometimes I think it helps that he doesn't think too much, otherwise he would be really bitter and twisted."