Teresa Cormack case: The day life changed – for everyone

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A former Teresa Cormack suspect who had to wait 14 years to be exonerated still seeks redress for the consequences of the finger-pointing – a bashing and a jail term on unrelated charges he and a lawyer say were a “fit-up”.

Wayne Montaperto, who grew up in Napier and was one of dozens who rallied to help look for the six-year-old in the eight days between when she was abducted on the way to school on June 19, 1987, and when her body was found on a beach almost 20km away, remains angry at the police treatment of him, and said this week: “In the end, they won’t get away with it.”

Lawyer Russell Fairbrother, now a QC, said during a break from a murder trial in Gisborne this week that he’d recently filed support for Mr Montaperto to be pardoned for the unrelated child kidnapping and indecency for which he spent three years in jail despite his denials.

In perhaps the ultimate reflection of public anger, Mr Montaperto, who in 1993 publicly conceded he’d been treated as a No 1 suspect in the Teresa Cormack case, again despite his denials, was also whacked with a spade and seriously injured in an attack by late Napier man Nic Karaitiana, sparked by claims made by his niece, a girlfriend of Mr Montaperto’s.

Mr Fairbrother commented after learning in 2001 that the tests which ultimately turned the case had cleared Mr Montaperto: “It’s dominated his whole life. It’s ruined his whole life. I think they arrested him [on the unrelated matters] in the hope that he would confess to this [Teresa’s murder].”

Now, having also served as Napier MP from 2002 to 2008, Mr Fairbrother says: “I think he was totally innocent of all allegations. He’s quite broken, he was beaten up and subjected to all sorts of horrific accusations. I think he needs compensation for all those years of trauma.”

During the early days of the case police released a photo of a Holden car owned by Mr Montaperto with appeals to public for sightings of vehicles similar to the one displayed, but inquiry heads in later years denied they had ever identified Mr Montaperto publicly as a suspect.

One close to the early inquiries has said Mr Montaperto first attracted police attention in the inquiry as one who fronted-up among those around Maraenui who were eager to help find Teresa, and the culprit – in some cases over-eager. Mr Montaperto was also considered have been saying some “unusual” things.

Mr Fairbrother recalls being involved with 5-6 men concerned they were being wrongfully accused, but there were many more. In 2001, as the focus started to narrow on eventually-convicted and jailed man Jules Mikus, police said 945 men “nominated” throughout the country as possible suspects. Of them, at least 20 were unable to be cleared until the 2001 events.

Among those to also feel some persecution was the late Derek Williams, who attracted interest because of his level of concern that police did not appear to be taking notice of information he had about suspicious activity north of Napier, and an artist’s impression of his vehicle was published.

The unease in Napier after the events of late June 1987, and the Maraenui area particularly, wasn’t helped with the clearly erroneous claim by then Opposition National Party policing spokesman John Banks that the number of known sex offenders in the area was of so many thousands that it almost outnumbered the male population.

One of the 945, believing his name was tossed in by a disenchanted ex but who concedes his own history wasn’t too flash, this week told Hawke’s Bay Today several people were “given the bash” as the community searched for answers with some prepared to take the law into their own hands in some sort of sense of community duty. Others were incensed that they were “on the list”.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is a lot of jealous women nominated their men as suspects, me one one of them,” he said.

“I was standing by the bar in the Terminus pub when detectives came up to me and took me down the road to the copshop, where I was questioned for over two hours,” he said.

“They told me that a woman I had went with had put my name forward as being the one who done it, because I was that sort of guy.

“I was set free later that day because they had another name they were interested in,” he said, believing that name was Wayne Montaperto.

The man, who says he saw Mr Montaperto “crawling” out of a Latham St property after being beaten with a spade, said: “It still hounds me today that I was treated as a suspect, even though only for a few hours.

“As hard as I may seem, back then I didn’t go out for weeks,” he said. “Over the years till they got him [Jules Mikus], I was very careful around any children, even my own.

“The only thing good about it was going to [Teresa’s] funeral and showing everyone else that I cared for a little girl I didn’t even know.”

He said he would probably have killed Mr Montaperto had he been the one who carried out the assault. “But thank god, now, I wasn’t.”

 

Source  :  New Zealand Herald

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