COMMENT:

Day two of the Malcolm Rewa murder trial at the High Court of Auckland was about an attempt to cast an aluminum fabricator from Kamo as a kind of Mark Lundy.

Lundy, famously, was convicted for the brutal murders of his wife and child; the theory was that he killed them after a long drive in the dead of night, then headed to work.

The motive was a life insurance windfall. Yesterday, Dallas McKay was accused by Rewa's defence counsel of brutally murdering his mother Susan Burdett after a long drive in the dead of night, then heading to work; the motive was a life insurance windfall.

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You could say it was a tense, aggressive morning in court. And it revealed another, actually more precise resemblance to the Lundy trial. McKay found himself in the same predicament as Glenn Weggery, Christine Lundy's brother. Both were called as witnesses for the prosecution. Both ended up being flat-out accused by the defence as the real culprit, the true villain, the actual murderer. Fair to say that neither were exactly thrilled about it.

Burdett was raped and killed at her unit in Pah Rd, Papatoetoe, on a Monday night in March 1992. Rewa was convicted in 1998 of her rape, but two juries that same year were unable to decide whether he was also responsible for her death.

Teina Pora got charged and then banged up for the murder until it was agreed that an old recurring theme in New Zealand police work — a miscarriage of justice — had put away an innocent man.

Pora didn't do it. This might have something to do with the fact he wasn't there on the night of Burdett's murder. As for Dallas McKay, he was up north in Kamo, playing darts (his team won), until he went home at about 11pm. He was next seen at work, at about quarter to seven in the morning. It was put to him that he made the return six-hour trip to Auckland to kill his mother and then show up for a day's work.

His denial was expressed in in the classic New Zealand manner, casual on the outside and seething with rage on the inside: "Nah. I don't think so, mate. You've got it completely wrong."

The mate to whom he was addressing was Paul Chambers, Rewa's lawyer. Chambers' performance in court was a game of two halves. One half of it might be fairly described as a shocker. He lost his place ("Sorry, Your Honour"), he argued with the witness ("Sorry, Your Honour"), he got facts wrong.

Justice Venning: "You just need to be accurate, Mr Chambers."
"Sorry, Your Honour."

A morning of sorrows. But then he is the sole counsel for the defence. For the Crown, prosecutor Gareth Kayes works alongside Zoe Hamill and Yasmin Olsen. They form a smug and tremendously efficient commune with their arsenal of folders and neat little stationery boxes; Chambers stands alone, grabbing at this, lunging at that.

It can all look a bit harried but he was tranquil and serene during one exchange with McKay. "I'm not the one on trial here," McKay said to him — incidentally, Glenn Weggery said the same exact words to Mark Lundy's lawyer. Chambers put down his folders and moved a bit closer to the witness box.

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"I'm glad you remember that, Mr McKay," he said. "Because you can't seem to remember anything else." And then, without notes, he noted that McKay didn't remember how many sets of keys he had to Burdett's flat, didn't remember how many times he phoned her on Monday night, didn't remember how much stress he was under, and didn't remember telling the police that his mother's death relieved some of those pressures.

"Mate," McKay answered his mate, "it was 27 years ago. Can you remember what you were doing 27 years ago?"

"It depends on the circumstances," Chambers said, primly. Good answer. But a few minutes later McKay put another question to him, and he couldn't resist answering that, too.

Justice Venning interrupted: "You ask the questions, Mr Chambers. You don't answer them."

"Sorry, Your Honour," Chambers replied, and started rummaging around for a document. It was touch and go whether he would ever find it.