GIST: He helped overturn Teina Pora's murder conviction. Now Tim McKinnel is investigating another potential wrongful conviction he believes could out-do even that case.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Tim McKinnel was unrelenting in his determination to overturn Teina Pora's murder and rape convictions.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Gail Maney was convicted without any hard forensic evidence." 

PHOTO CAPTION: "For years, Deane Fuller-Sandys was presumed to have been swept from the rocks while fishing at Whatipu on Auckland's west coast. "

GIST:  "It's a drizzly, grey Tuesday morning when I meet Tim McKinnel at his west Auckland home, down the world's most complicated driveway. The 44-year-old investigator (don't preface it with 'private', he says; it makes people think you "sneak around taking photos of cheating spouses and that sort of thing") leads me through to his home office with its large desk, multiple screens and boxes of files stacked in towers. The former cop, father-of-three and tireless campaigner who led the effort to overturn Teina Pora's convictions for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett, currently has his sights set on what he thinks might just be New Zealand's next wrongful conviction case: that of Gail Maney. And when asked if he thinks Maney's case could end up being on the same scale as Pora's, McKinnel says simply, "It could be bigger.  In 1999, Maney was found guilty of ordering the killing of Deane Fuller-Sandys, who had gone missing a decade earlier. At the time it was thought that Fuller-Sandys had died after slipping from rocks while fishing at Whatipu, on Auckland's west coast. In 1997, eight years after he disappeared, presumed drowned, police received a tip off about a story of a body in a car boot and thus began an extraordinarily complex tangle of conflicting accusations made by multiple witnesses, culminating in Maney and three others being found guilty. During Maney's trial, the Crown was unable to produce any hard forensic evidence such as DNA, blood-matches or weapons. Fuller-Sandys' body has never been found. Following Maney's successful appeal, a retrial took place in 2000, but she was found guilty a second time, and a second appeal was thrown out. Maney, a mother-of-three, spent 15 years behind bars, and is currently serving out a life sentence on parole.  All along, Maney has professed her innocence. In fact, she has said she did not know Fuller-Sandys, and that when she was charged with murder it was the first time she'd heard his name. Her case is now receiving new attention, thanks largely to the recent RNZ-Stuff true crime podcast Gone Fishing, by journalists Amy Maas and Adam Dudding, which investigates her story. In August, lawyers Julie-Anne Kincade, Nicholas Chisnall and Aieyah Shendi agreed to represent Maney in a bid to have her case re-heard by the Court of Appeal. McKinnel's involvement in the case began when he was approached by Maas for input into the podcast. When he started to look into the case more closely there were several red flags, he says. "There is not a scrap of physical evidence to support the contention that Fuller-Sandys was murdered and that's a pretty frightening place to start from for a murder prosecution." He found some concerning similarities to Teina Pora's case too, particularly when it came to the way police managed witnesses. "We have what appears to be a rather prolific use of deals, inducements, threats; potentially offers of rewards, relocation and pay-outs.".........In 2015, McKinnel, along with another investigator, a couple of lawyers and a forensic scientist, founded the New Zealand Public Interest Project. Unlike many other countries, New Zealand does not have a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), whose purpose is to pursue miscarriages of justice, and so McKinnel and his colleagues felt they needed to fill that absence. Since launching, they have received hundreds of applications but because the team is working pro bono and in their spare time, it has been difficult coordinating everyone and dealing with the volume of applications. They try to meet monthly and McKinnel says of the cases he has looked at, "One in ten looks not only troubling, but viable in terms of doing something. I wouldn't be surprised if there were dozens of relatively serious wrongful convictions in New Zealand and that is why a CCRC is, in my view, such a necessary tool. I would like to think that a properly funded and empowered commission would mean that we don't need to exist anymore." McKinnel may soon get his wish: there is currently a bill before Parliament to establish a CCRC in New Zealand. So what's next for this reluctant hero? Aside from his commercial investigation work and Maney, McKinnel is looking into the case of Alan Hall (also the subject of a podcast, Newshub's Grove Road) who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1985 murder of 52-year-old Arthur Easton. Like Maney's case, there's a lot that doesn't stack up and there's a lot of work to be done. The measured and studious McKinnel, still with the cop's haircut, doesn't sound like he'll be retiring his cape anytime soon."

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