WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s government on Wednesday agreed to pay a record amount to a 41-year-old man who spent more than 20 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit.
The government said it would pay Teina Pora 2.5 million New Zealand dollars ($1.8 million) and also issued him a formal apology. The compensation would be the highest ever paid by the South Pacific nation for a wrongful conviction.
Pora was convicted in 1994 of raping and murdering Susan Burdett, an Auckland woman. After agreeing to hear an appeal from Pora, Britain’s Privy Council in 2015 quashed all of his convictions.
The case hinged on a confession that Pora made to police that placed him at the crime scene. He was 16 years old at the time of the murder.
But in a government-commissioned report, former Judge Rodney Hansen said Pora was lured into the confession by the prospect of a reward and because his judgment and thinking were “befuddled” from the fetal alcohol syndrome he suffers from.
“I find Mr. Pora’s version of events simply cannot withstand critical scrutiny,” Hansen wrote. “All the indications are that he made it up as he went along.”
Hansen concluded that another man, convicted serial rapist Malcolm Rewa, was solely responsible for the crimes.
Rewa was convicted of raping Burdett in 1999 after DNA evidence linked his semen to the crime. But two juries couldn’t decide whether Rewa was guilty of the woman’s murder.
Justice Minister Amy Adams said the government accepted that Pora was innocent of the crimes.
“I acknowledge that over the past two decades you have suffered considerably, including the many years you spent away from your young daughter,” Adams wrote in her formal apology, adding that she hoped the compensation would help him and his family build a better future.
Pora’s lawyers told media that they’d hoped for a larger compensation offer but their client was grateful to receive the formal apology.
The British Privy Council was historically New Zealand’s final court of appeal, although it has been superseded by a domestic Supreme Court for cases after 2003.