Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Teina Pora book In Dark Places compelling.

I thought I knew a reasonable amount about the dynamics of the Pora case however some of the detail from Michael Bennett's important to read book 'In Dark Places' were still shocking. Having finished the book I realise that there were always gaps in what the public knew of the fine detail in the Pora case. It was plainly obvious to this reader that Pora's second trial was as unfair as his first, that he was actually framed a second time. I had drawn a wide brush over this because it was clear police set Pora up a second time by having witnesses lie that Pora and the serial rapist Rewa, who undoubtedly to most people was the killer of Susan Burdett, wittingly put the 2 together in a complete and utter fabrication.

There was nothing different in paying witnesses who lied in order to put Pora and Rewa together than for the Officer in Charge of this case, the now retired Rutherford, to have genuinely ever been able to believe Pora did not remember which home he had allegedly taken part in Susan Burdette's murder even when taken to the street and been spoken to right outside the house. Rutherford had to tell Pora which has it was, and reflect that Pora was unable to even describe the late Susan Burdett. As Michael Bennett wrote In Dark Places Rutherford should have pointed out the wrong house, and when, as he surely would have, Pora agreed then the lie would have been in plain sight. But Rutherford didn't want that outcome, the pressure was on him for an arrest. The youth Pora, who had already been cleared on being involved, would do and he was on a string, a promise, a corrupt lie, and illegal inducement that Rutherford knew would never be honoured - immunity from prosecution and a reward that would help Pora establish something for his baby daughter.

I pause here to write that I have been disdainful of publicity surrounding Pora, his daughter and now grandchild. Well perhaps not disdainful but sceptical. Bennett's book put that scepticism aside in a way that now makes me feel uncomfortable about rushing to a judgement. The boy who lost his mother at the age of 4 is in fact a very loving parent something that is hard not to admire. There is possibly a reason for this, his endeavours to make something for his own family having suffered the loss of his own mother and a dad that walked out. His life was bleak, he watched out, as much as a child could do for his baby sister but by then he was in a situation of being passed around the family. One Aunt and her husband were very cruel and violent toward Pora and his sister. It would be the same Aunt who would lie for money at his first trial and her daughter who would do the same at his retrial.

Imagine that. Police framing him with the help of his own family, paid to do the job. One would think if he had ever in fact been the violent killer the police alleged then every provocation was made for him to explode in anger - but he never did, such is the poise and mana of the man.

So back to those video interviews which have always interested me for what went on behind the scenes, before the cameras rolled and after. In Dark Places succinctly points out one particular movement in the 'confession' between the camera being switched off then on again. Entirely out of sequence as to what have been said shortly before the video had been turned off, Pora suddenly admits on screen that he held down Susan Burdett whilst she was being raped. The ex police officer Tim McKinnel, who as the book unfolds, becomes clear as being the central figure fighting for Pora, notes later after watching the video he tracked down under the Official Information Act, that Rutherford does not look Pora in the eye. While the young man is smiling and assuming he has said, what was required of him to get both immunity from prosecution and a reward Rutherford knows he has just taken part in successfully duping Pora into a confession for a crime he didn't commit and didn't have the guts to look him in the eye. He has watched Pora dig his own grave for Rutherford himself to push the young teenager into without a blink of the eye.

Also revealed in the book is how the investigation into Rewa was set aside in order that Pora was convicted. Police did not want it known that there was a hunt on for the serial rapist Rewa whose modus operandi fitted the Burdett rape and murder to a t. On the subject of Rewa, previously known a Mike Lewis, the book describes him in a way that I never knew him. According to Bennett Rewa/Lewis, at some point Sergeant of Arms in the motor cycle club Highway 61 was staunch to the bone, the man to sort out any difficulties and not to be crossed. The Mike Lewis I knew was timid and easy to laughter in the hardest company, but no doubt the ex army biker with the name nick name 'hammer' could be the man in surroundings he was sure of. Someone has told me recently that they read that Rewa was an informer, which was unsurprising to me, also that some of the police were 'turning a blind eye' to the rapes for that reason. I think, therefore, that some of his many rape victims, may take a class action against police. Not in the same, but in a similar, way that Susan Couch took a sole action against the Justice Department for not safely controlling the parolee William Bell who killed three friends of  Susan Couch and almost killed her. That action resulted in an unprecedented, if nominal, settlement with the Justice Department, one that may have been more substantial had there been greater awareness at the time of the depth of the NZ Bill of Rights Act acknowledging that the BORA trumps self-protecting laws enacted to divert Government liability.

Returning to In Dark Places, the book lays out the already quite well known fact of the of the second retired police officer 'Chook' Henwood, by all accounts a remarkable criminal profiler, who while working for police as a civilian after his retirement, spoke out publicly as to his belief that Pora was innocent. In the context of the depth of corruption shown by the police hierarchy in not acknowledging miscarriage of Justice and fighting this remains exceptional, not only because of Henwood showing the honest man he is, but because Police top brass reprimanded him for doing so. The same top brass who would some years later apologise to Pora for stealing 20 years of his life from him because he was a willing victim working under inducement. But they never apologised to Henwood or acknowledged the police association president had also spoken out in an unprecedented
way. Where police top brass failure 30 years later to apologise to Arthur Thomas for his false imprisonment so inwardly protective of themselves felt it necessary to rebuke a retired officer who was driven by all the powerful things which make excellent policing - honesty and fairness being foremost on that list.

What Bennett would most captures in his book was for this reader the very special part of the Pora story. And it is a story more significant, or a least as significant, as the death of Susan Burdett. It is a story of salvation of some sort, therapeutic, if but for a moment you may feel the shoes fit you -  cast down orphan, stripped of family and freedom thrown in the dungeons for a crime he obviously never did from which he grows immeasurably strong and at peace. Of all the things that most tell this story to me is that part, overcoming adversity with the absence of hatred.  Consider the recent television interview with Pora and the man afraid to meet him, Rutherford the ex cop in charge of this case. When Pora was asked what he would say to Rutherford should they ever meet and talk as they had for all those days when Rutherford had convinced Pora to trust him, plying him with petty gifts of food and cigarettes to the child like teenager and promises of 1000s of dollars to confess to a murder he had never committed. Pora replied that he would forgive him.

How much that statement constructs who had the mightiest power in the Pora case, the police, the state, successive governments and prime ministers who all turned a blind eye to his false imprisonment, or the man himself Pora, never killed, never bowed by his anonymous enemy called justice, that of a 1000 faces changing in the mist. It was Pora who won with his dignity, his power to forgive and for the love of his family. I wonder what Rutherford thinks of that.