Susan Burdett murder: Witness saw Malcolm Rewa on the night

Serial rapist Malcolm Rewa
Serial rapist Malcolm Rewa

Tonight 3D Investigates revealed fresh evidence in the Susan Burdett case, which it says is enough to re-try serial rapist Malcolm Rewa for her murder.

A witness and former neighbour of Ms Burdett has told the programme she saw Rewa parked alone in his truck in her driveway on the night of murder – a claim also corroborated by a family member of Rewa.

That family member, whose stepdaughter was Rewa's wife, says a baseball bat found at the scene of the crime belonged to Rewa, not Ms Burdett as the court was told.

Ms Burdett was raped and beaten to death in her Papatoetoe home in 1992, just after she got home from a night out doing her favourite thing – 10-pin bowling.

Teina Pora was 16 years old at the time of the murder and in 1994 he was found guilty, even though it's now clear he wasn't there. The Privy Council has since quashed his convictions.

Now even the Prime Minister says he didn't do it.

Rewa was convicted of sex attacks on 25 women, but police think he committed many, many more. Rewa is one of New Zealand's worst criminals, and he's eligible for parole in 2018.

One of the women he was convicted of raping was Ms Burdett. We know that because of DNA evidence. He faced two trials for her murder, but both times there were hung juries. They couldn't decide if he killed her.

The problem was Mr Pora. He was already in prison for the Burdett rape and murder. And even though in all his other crimes Rewa attacked women on his own, when it came to the Burdett case, the police said he must have taken Mr Pora with him.

"I never ever met the man from a bar of soap, man, and I don't even know him," says Mr Pora.

So with Mr Pora's convictions quashed and the case against Rewa too confusing for the jury, Ms Burdett's murder is unsolved. The police won't investigate the case unless fresh evidence emerges.

"Absolutely Susan Burdett deserves justice," says Police Commissioner Mike Bush. "But my point is that if we had fresh evidence, which would enable a fresh investigation, we would pursue it. But we don't have that fresh evidence."

A witness who lived in a house just down the road from Ms Burdett at the time of the murder saw Rewa parked in his truck in her driveway on his own on that night, and that evidence has never been heard.

She says she opened the curtain on the night of the murder and saw Rewa parked in his truck in her driveway, on his own, with nobody else around.

Up till now, there has only been physical evidence – DNA of semen – connecting Rewa with Ms Burdett. There were no fingerprints, no eyewitnesses, and Rewa claimed in his defence that he was at home on the night.

So to now have an eyewitness who saw him in Ms Burdett's street, on his own, without Mr Pora, is a breakthrough.

"It's an absolutely vital piece of evidence placing the person who has been convicted of Susan's rape in the vicinity of the scene on the night of her rape and murder, on his own," says Tim McKinnel, the private investigator who took on Mr Pora's case, and so has detailed knowledge of the Burdett inquiry. "In the context of the case it doesn't get any more significant than that."

"What's really important for us is that there is a fresh and complete look at the case, and in my view that would be an incredibly important piece of new evidence."

There's another thing about what this eyewitness says. She says she told the police what she'd seen. In fact, she's adamant about that.

Police records from the time confirm that she spoke to constables twice during what police call the area canvas, when they go door to door in the immediate aftermath of a murder, trawling for information.

But the documents don't say anything about her having seen Rewa. It's unclear why that is, especially when she's so positive she told them. So is there anyone who can corroborate what she says?

Now, for the first time, someone from Rewa's family has spoken. Herb Manapiri's stepdaughter was Rewa's wife. He saw him frequently and at one point even gave Rewa a job.

He confirms that the woman who saw Rewa – or Hama as he's known to this family – did tell the police, and many others.

"She told the family," says Mr Manapiri. "The family all knew about her story, what she told… Hama was in the driveway."

He says that can only mean one thing: "He did it."

"Yeah a long time [I have carried this information], and my family is carrying it with them too, you know. And they're afraid, because afraid and protecting my grandchildren.

"You know they've been through quite a bit with this now, and with me coming to give evidence now, giving you an interview, it's going to put a lot of strain on them again.

"Yes I have to be [comfortable with that]. You know, if I'm going to be better for myself, why go to church and you know you're living with something? They say you have to tell the truth and bring it out.

"I'm not doing it for money or anything; I'm doing it for the sake of it that we know what went down and how it happened."

If the police did know about the sighting of Rewa, why didn't they do anything about it? It's not recorded in the initial area canvas notes, or anywhere else.

"It's inexplicable that something as significant as that wouldn't be recorded on the police file," says Mr McKinnel. "Undoubtedly even at that time in 1992, would have been of huge potential importance.

"If the police had been told and didn't record it or did record it and made it go away, it doesn't get more serious than that when you're looking at a case like Susan's and a case that encompasses a miscarriage of justice like the one that Teina Pora suffered."

It looks like yet another missed opportunity for the police to have caught Rewa in the midst of his rape spree. When the Burdett case happened, Rewa had already served time for a sex offence.

So if the police had followed up that sighting apparently given to them within days of the crime and checked Rewa's history, alarm bells would have rung.

They could have tested his DNA test then, and the match would have been immediate. But they didn't, and he wasn't arrested and taken off the streets for another four years, during which time he attacked at least 15 more women.

There's another new piece of evidence 3D Investigates believes should be used in court, in a re-prosecution of Rewa for her murder.

In video the police took in 1992 at the scene of the crime, a bat can be seen on Ms Burdett's bed. The prosecution has previously said the bat belonged to her.

"Yeah the old baseball bat," says Mr Manapiri, "I first saw that when I come back from Australia."

"[Rewa] had a Holden, and he took me up to Ruakaka on it – him and his daughter – and I seen that baseball bat quite often … it's the old colour of the old baseball bat what he used to carry.

"That's the one. And I seen it quite often. He used to carry it in his van and stuff like that too.

"He used to beat his dogs and he was in the gang, and I suppose that was his weapon.

"I'm telling you that's his bat left at the scene and, you know, that shows that he did it."

Mr Manapiri says he told the police at the time. He can even describe the policeman he spoke to, but it never appears in any of the police records.

"I said to them that's Malcolm Rewa's. It was a ginger-haired detective."

His new evidence is complicated by the fact that two people close to Ms Burdett testified that they recognised the bat as one she kept for self-defence. But Mr Manapiri is adamant.

"That's what the police are saying, she had it for protection, but it wasn't. That was his favourite weapon is the baseball bat. I've seen him use it on his dogs."

What Mr Manapiri has to say puts Rewa in the vicinity and puts a bat belonging to him at the scene of the crime.

"Absolutely they are potentially useful pieces of evidence," says Mr McKinnel. "I simply can't understand the position [police are] taking. It's nonsensical; it's unreasonable; it's unfair; it's unjust and I think that somebody in the leadership of the police needs to have some courage. Mistakes happen, things get missed, errors occur – that's all perfectly human. But to know there are issues and turn a blind eye is unforgivable."

Police have refused to meet with 3D Investigates to discuss the new evidence, but issued the following statement.

Police has twice charged Malcolm Rewa with the murder of Susan Burdett.

The Solicitor-General stayed further prosecution of Mr Rewa at the conclusion of his second trial in 1998.

In his recent submission to the Privy Council regarding Teina Pora the Solicitor-General's advice was that "no exceptional circumstances exist to justify lifting that stay".

No unresolved case is ever closed, and as is normal for any historic matter, any new information which becomes available to police will be assessed to determine what, if any further steps are required.


3 News