As with all things there comes a time for definition, a declaration or settlement of some kind. For Teina Pora that time to me has long been passed. I need only think of now retired Detective Sergeant Keith Rutherford, a man of countenance seemingly cast from stone. Could you fool Rutherford, consider that he came down in the last shower, was gullible?
If you believed Teina Pora was guilty before knowing that when he confessed to being present at the time of the killing of Susan Burdett, or being on watch as she was raped and bashed to death, you may not have known that he was a local in the district in which she died, but couldn't find the house where it happened or even properly describe her. Not knowing what she looked like or where she lived would make it hard to believe his story. Add to that that he was looking to be rewarded for giving information on the murder but didn't know those primary details, where the house was, her physical description - hardly small oversights on such a serious crime.
Different things about the arrest, conviction, 20 years imprisonment before the conviction being thrown out will have stuck with observers of this case. The fact that another man was convicted of raping Susan Burdett on the night she died must register high as a concern. The assumption that Christine was raped by one offender, then later murdered by another who had not raped her and didn't know her or where she lived is difficult to reconcile and is no doubt the reason some 21 years later that Pora is free and no person stands guilty as having killed her - although one is convicted of raping her makes this case extremely bizarre, possibly a world first of it's kind.
So where does the public look for such an implausible scenario to have taken flight? How could the situation be so confused that a rapist, in fact a serial rapist who used violence to the head, had raped Susan Burdett that night, and before she, still apparently alive according to the rapist in his own evidence, and to Steve Rutherford who brought the case to the Courts - hadn't rung the police, a friend or neighbour or simply run from the house to seek help before she was killed by another random stranger?
Well of course the situation was never that confused because the rapist Malcom Rewa killed Susan Burdett. What Pora did was get picked up for another alleged petty crime and decided to buy his way out of it and gain the reward posted for Susan's death. The minute Pora, a boy at the time by definition of the Law, couldn't point out the details of the crime scene or details of the victim his opportunity was spent, at least to any reasonable person with an average ability in deduction. It was over - Pora was a bull crapper, opportunist and time waster. The problem was, the vastly experienced Rutherford, although he clearly knew crap when he smelt it, was so willing to imbibe Pora's lies. He had the opportunity, manufactured by him many would say, to solve a high interest murder case. One can only imagine how he may have reconciled such clear ambiguities other than having been desperate for an arrest.
If that was the case with Steve Rutherford, and there is little evidence to suggest otherwise, it becomes very interesting as to what he may have been thinking, if at all, about the consequences for the illiterate boy of subdued intelligence he would inevitably be sending to prison.
That's what many will find stunning about this case. How an experienced detective sergeant could turn off his bull crap sensor, his deduction powers, but mostly his humanity and be willing to see a young boy go to prison for a crime he clearly did not commit. This is the mystery that surrounds those falsely imprisoned, the justification or plain lack of concern of those police who plant evidence against the falsely accused, hide evidence tending to exculpate them over a period of time, even come to hate them. Why Rutherford didn't simply give the young Pora a cuff around the ear because he was clearly lying is something only Rutherford knows. Observers will have their own ideas or observations as to what makes a heart grow so cold, if in fact it was not already cold, that allows men, and sometimes women, to forget their moral code and sworn duty, to become so distant from what is right and charge others for a crime they at best can only 'think' the person may have committed.
But there is clearly another part to this phenomena, not only the compliance of those with oversight of the case, but how clear headedness is substituted with hate by the framer for he or she they target. Human characteristic is the need to justify what is plainly wrong as being right in some circumstances. Did Rutherford or others in his situation simply see the opportunity to solve a murder and let nothing else get in the way? It might well be that, but there is also another common factor: the justification in the framer's mind, he or she must dispose of contemporary belief of right or wrong and convince themselves with justification that time will eventually desert. It seems to me that must be driven by hate or something very similar to it, if the framer can bring themselves to hate their target, or hate what they represent, or what class or type they appear to be then they have extracted noble cause. If Rutherford thought that Pora was a no hoper, thieving bastard from a bad family, he could for instance have considered that it was better that Pora was in prison even if his recall of the murder and its details would set alarm bells ringing for any person, let alone an experienced homicide detective. If that is indeed the streets of thought that Rutherford entered, then he did so with confidence. Could he have known that every Court in NZ that the case was appealed to would act without concern for the details that are now so stark about the Pora case. Doubtful of course, but is there where the problem lies.
The Courts lost touch with Pora case as they did with that of Watson and Bain, all around the same time, the Court of Appeal in particular. Not one of those grey men or women spoke to the others on the bench on which they served and expressed doubt. Not one said they had misgivings because of the way Pora was questioned, denied a lawyer, that he was underage or most importantly that he was significantly wrong about specific details of the case in his 'confession.' Even at the Privy Council it was a close run thing and primarily turned on that Court's acceptance of a lifelong medical condition that Pora has from his mother drinking heavily before he was born.
In his recent interview and to my surprise, as possibly it would be also for those that were on the bench of the PC, Pora revealed that he recalls every conversation he had at the time of his video interviews, including which was said to him by police between those interviews. The public of NZ have a right to know what was said to Pora at that time in order that there may be some further understanding as to what happened to him, how and why. That time has come. Perhaps we will finally hear after his 'application' for compensation is decided, the laborious and visionless probe by those that falsely imprisoned him into his guilt. That story deserves its place in history alongside how a man was imprisoned for a false confession and then refused parole for not admitting his guilt.