Police: Rewa evidence not 'exceptional circumstances'

Serial rapist Malcolm Rewa (supplied)
Serial rapist Malcolm Rewa (supplied)

A leading lawyer says it's appalling the investigation of the murder of Susan Burdett is being carried out by journalists and a private investigator.

3D Investigates has uncovered a witness who says serial rapist Malcolm Rewa was near the murder scene on the night.

But the police say the evidence does nothing to advance the case.

Twenty-three years later, and there is still no justice for Ms Burdett.

"Everybody knows who the offender for that murder is," says Tony Bouchier of the Criminal Bar Association. "The police know it, the public know it. It's appalling that it requires journalists and a private investigator to uncover this evidence."

A former neighbour told 3D Investigates she saw Rewa parked by himself near Ms Burdett's house on the night of the murder. She says she told police and others.

"She told the family," says Rewa family member Herb Manapiri. "The family all knew her story."

Police notes show they interviewed the woman twice, but there is no record of her claim.

"That's a reason for police to reopen," says Labour justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern. "They need to demonstrate that they investigated this properly, they need to rebuild faith in the way this case was handled."

3D also reported a new claim about the baseball bat used to kill Ms Burdett. Mr Manapiri says it was Rewa's, not Ms Burdett's.

"It's the old colour of the bat he used to carry."

The fresh information follows the Privy Council ruling that quashed Teina Pora's conviction for the rape and murder of Ms Burdett. That ruling said Rewa raped Ms Burdett and there was no doubt the murder occurred at the time of the rape.

"The police should have reopened the inquiry a long time ago, and the case for that becomes more compelling as time goes on," says Mr Bouchier.

But police point out Rewa has been charged twice with Ms Burdett's murder, and two juries couldn't reach a decision.

The police will review the information put forward by 3D, but say on initial examination it is not exceptional and does nothing to advance the case against Rewa.

Assistant Commissioner Malolm Burgess also says it's unbelievable that police would not have followed up any possible sightings of Rewa if in fact they had received that information.

So for Ms Burdett and her family, it's 23 years and counting.

Statement from Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess:

"Police have twice charged Malcolm Rewa with the rape and murder of Susan Burdett. At this time we are prevented from charging him again by a stay of prosecution, which the Solicitor-General may consider lifting in 'exceptional circumstances'.

"We will review any new information about the Burdett case, as we would with any unsolved murder. Our initial examination conducted today indicates the information presented last night does not show exceptional circumstances.

"Malcolm Rewa was identified by police as being inside Susan Burdett's house on the night of her murder through DNA evidence – this evidence was given at his two trials. A suggestion 20 years later that Mr Rewa was also seen in a vehicle in a driveway near to Ms Burdett's address on the same night does nothing to advance the case against him.

"The claim that police was given this information at the time, but failed to record it, is frankly unbelievable. If police had been told this at the time then you can be certain that it would have been recorded and followed up, given it could have led to the identity of an offender being established. Police will nevertheless seek to interview the person who now claims to have provided this information to clarify their current recollection of these events.

"The provenance of the baseball bat referred to in the 3D programme was extensively covered in the course of the original inquiry and in subsequent forensic reviews. Two witnesses told police at the time of the murder that the bat belonged to Ms Burdett. No forensic evidence has ever linked the baseball bat with Malcolm Rewa. We note the comments about the bat made by the individual filmed last night, which are in conflict with the earlier evidence held on the file. For the sake of completeness we will review this 'new' information too.

"Police would also point out that the programme makers made no offer to supply the information aired last night unless police were filmed. Seeking to impose conditions on police in this way is not appropriate. No unsolved murder case is ever closed and we once again invite TV3 to supply any information which they believe is relevant for assessment."

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