Focus on Police Competence
Producers: Stephen Davis and Amanda Millar
We began this investigation almost a year ago, when three teenagers were cleared of a terrible crime. The Court of Appeal had decided these young girls had nothing to do with the violent robbery that had landed them in jail. As we began making calls and conducting interviews, the police launched two investigations of their own. One to find out how they'd got it so wrong, and the other to catch the offenders who'd really carried out the attack. So we waited to see what they'd come up with. We waited and waited. But months later ... nothing. No offenders caught, and no compensation for the three teenagers, whose freedom and innocence was lost.
AMANDA V/O: Around 8.30 in the morning a 16 year-old school girl is viciously slashed and bashed by five teenage girls, all for $10 and a packet of cigarettes. Three girls, Tania Vini, 14 at the time, Macushla Fuataha, also 14, and 15 year-old Lucy Akatere, would be jailed for terms of up to two years for the aggravated robbery of that schoolgirl. But they were innocent. After seven months inside they finally get out and their convictions are later overturned. But justice had betrayed them and they’re still being punished.
LUCY AKATERE: You know you still get people y’know, like when I came out, people like “Oh look, there’s that chick that stabbed that girls at Three Kings. You better watch out.”
TANIA VINI: I’m always gonna think about it. It’s always going to be there. I mean, no matter what happens. I’m always going to know, I went to prison for something I didn’t do.
MACUSHLA FUATAHA: It was really hard. I didn’t have enough strength to get through but Tania and Lucy, basically kept me going. If it wasn't for them I think I wouldn't be sitting here today.
AMANDA (TO CAM): A botched police investigation that grew into a judicial mess that now owes three young teenagers potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. Tonight we investigate the police conduct in this case. 20/20 will detail the failures and flaws of a justice system that cheated these girls. We’ll show you for the first time, documents, affadavits and interviews that we’ve accumulated since the girls were locked up. And nearly a year after their convictions were overturned, they still haven’t had any justice. They’ve only had grief.
(V/O): And for the first time tonight, they, with their Mums Tania and Cathy, Lucy and Pate, and Macushla and Sue share the sadness, the isolation and the damage of a travesty that’s poisoned the lives of three law-abiding Pacific Island families.
GARY GOTLIEB: A bloody disaster.
AMANDA (V/O): The one person who’d take on the system on behalf of the girls was lawyer, Gary Gotlieb.
GARY GOTLIEB: I would have to say, bearing in mind the age of the girls and their innocence, it ranks of one of the worst breaches of people’s rights. At that age to have happen to them - it actually will ruin their lives.
AMANDA (V/O): Gotlieb couldn’t have proved it without private investigator and former top cop, Bryan Rowe.
BRIAN ROWE: Words fail me. I can’t see any excuse for it. It is just wrong, wrong, wrong from start to finish and it is still going wrong.
AMANDA (V/O): These were good girls. They’d never been in trouble with the law before. The only thing they did wrong was wearing the same sweatshirts identified by the victim.
(TO CAM): It was these popular USA sweatshirts worn by the attackers that prompted two schoolgirls to go the police after they’d read a report about the robbery. They told the police they’d seen Tania, Macushla and Lucy all wearing the same sweatshirts, with another friend, near the scene of the crime. The victim had been attacked by strangers, so here was the crucial breakthrough that the police needed, the identification of four suspects. But the investigation already had its first fundamental flaw.
(V/O): It was in fact, the wrong place, wrong time and wrong day. What we now know is that these two schoolgirls had seen Tania, Macushla, Lucy and their 13 year-old friend but it was six days before the attack, at the wrong time of the day, and not even at the scene of the crime. The officer in charge of the case was a relatively new detective, former Black Cap cricketer and celebrated opening batsman Trevor Franklin whose sporting career was cut short through injury. Detective Franklin has always strongly denied any allegations of misconduct in his investigation.
His first visit was to Tania Vini’s house. Her mum, Cathy was with Tania when he started asking questions about her involvement in the attack.
TANIA VINI: Like yelling and telling me, “You’re a liar. Don’t lie. Tell the truth. You were a big girl on the day, why aren't you now?
AMANDA: What were you thinking as you heard him questioning her?
CATHY VINI: Thinking? That’s all I can think about. Slapping his face because it really hurt me.
AMANDA: So there wasn’t a moment when you didn’t believe Tania?
CATHY VINI: I always believed my daughter.
AMANDA (V/O): Detective Franklin then moved to the youngest suspect. We can’t identify because she’s protected by a court order. She says Detective Franklin would question her for several hours.
13 YEAR OLD: I was telling them that I wasn’t there and I don’t know anything about it and him and his companion were too busy blaming me saying, yes I was there, don’t lie, we got evidence, and you know you were there. We have people calling us.
AMANDA (V/O): The 13 year-old said her older sister was with her but was told to leave the room at some stage and that’s when she crumbled.
13 YEAR OLD: He ended up saying that he would change my record and give me bad records and take me away from my family.
AMANDA: So he was saying he’d take you away from your family if you didn’t admit to the crime?
13 YEAR OLD: Yes. And he said that he’d change my record into a criminal record.
AMANDA: So what did you do when he threatened you with that?
13 YEAR OLD: Got scared and went along with what he was telling me to say.
AMANDA (V/O): Here was the second flaw, a false confession. The 13 year-old had gone from being a police suspect to the Crown’s key witness. The whole prosecution case would hang on her evidence. And that evidence she claims came from information that Detective Franklin told her to say in her statement.
BRYAN ROWE: The greatest blunder of course was relying on a false confession, or a confession from a 13 year-old which was obviously false.
AMANDA (V/O): At the same time, 13 year-old was giving a false statement, a female detective visited 15 year-old Lucy Akatere and started asking the same questions.
LUCY AKATERE: I thought it was a joke but they weren’t joking around, and I just kept telling them, “No. I didn’t do that. I wasn’t there.”
AMANDA (V/O): At one stage, the female officer left the room to take a call from Detective Franklin advising her that the 13 year-old friend had confessed and implicated Lucy. When the policewoman returned, that’s when Lucy says she was put under real pressure.
LUCY AKATERE: “How dare you lie to me. You’re a liar. I just got a call saying that you were there, and you did give that girl a hiding for $10.”
AMANDA: So what did you make of that when the detective said that to you?
LUCY AKATERE: That just made me cry even more.
AMANDA: Can you try to explain to me so that people can understand, why it is that you would say something that wasn’t true that would betray Lucy and your friends?
13 YEAR OLD: At that time I was only 13 years of age and I was going through heaps of problems, stress, everything, and I just couldn’t keep track and they picked on me, they bullied me, saying mean things I didn’t need to hear.
AMANDA: This is the detective?
13 YEAR OLD: Yes.
AMANDA (V/O): Next on the list was Macushla Fuataha. Her mother Sue was with her when the female detective interviewed Macushla..
MACUSHLA FUATAHA: She goes, “Oh you stupid idiot.” She says, “Hurry up and tell the truth so we can get this stupid case over and done with.”
SUE FUATAHA: She was really harsh. She just kept saying to Macushla, “You did do it.”
MACUSHLA FUATAHA: But the police kept saying, “Hurry up. You’re the last one to tell us that you’ve done it. Lucy and Tania have already told us they’ve done it.”
AMANDA (V/O): The third flaw… this was inaccurate information. The two other girls had made no such admission. This information was untrue. But it was enough to sway Macushla’s mum Sue, and it’s something that haunts her to this day.
SUE FUATAHA: I felt angry with myself. I thought I’d failed her because I thought the police was telling the truth.
AMANDA (V/O): Macushla still protested her innocence like the other two, but they were all taken to Auckland Central Police Station where they were arrested, charged with aggravated robbery and locked up.
SUE FUATAHA: The night they arrested her and took her to jail, and I thought I was never going to see her again.
End Part One
Tania, Lucy and Macushla have been arrested. It's the first
time these three girls and their families have come face to face with the
legal system. Now they have to place their faith in their lawyers, the courts
and the police.
AMANDA (V/O): Together locked in their cell, Tania and Macushla hugged each other out of fear and support.
TANIA VINI: I was scared. I was dirty and cold. I just wanted to get out.
MACUSHLA FUATAHA: It was like, “Oh my God, what am I doing here? I didn’t do it.”
AMANDA (V/O): But Lucy was alone, and says she was forced to be strip-searched before being locked up.
LUCY AKATERE: I was just crying, like praying in my head telling God to guide me and just asking him why this was all happening to me and stuff.
AMANDA (V/O): So while the three girls were locked up, their 13 year-old accuser was free, too young to be charged. She was being groomed as the star witness in spite of the fact that her story was plainly wrong.
Number four … there were inconsistencies in the statements. Wrong number of girls, wrong ages, wrong heights, wrong weapon and no nose stud.
For a start, the 13 year-old said there were 4 attackers. The complainant or victim said there were five. The victim said the girl who’d slashed her had a pierced nose. Police maintained that attacker was Macushla, but in fact she’d never had a stud or a ring in her nose.
BRYAN ROWE: When you take into account the description of the attackers given by the complainant, different as chalk and cheese. Not even the number is correct. And that’s pretty fundamental isn’t it really? The number’s not correct. The ages aren’t correct. The heights aren’t correct. There’s no ring in the nose. The builds aren’t correct. There is nothing correct. Zero.
AMANDA (V/O): The fifth flaw: The police carried out no investigation of alibis. And the girls all had them but the police never checked them out. Had they done so, they would have quickly found that the alibis stood up. Lucy and Tania both told police about a telephone call that Lucy made to her friend at 7.39 on the morning of the crime. Phone records prove it but this was never followed up. The police also never investigated Cushla’s alibi that she was with a relative at the time of the attack. Bryan Rowe then carried out what he calls a fundamental police investigation tool, a timing exercise that determined it was impossible for the girls to get to the scene of the crime in time.
Here was another fundamental flaw according to Bryan Rowe… no timing exercise.
BRYAN ROWE: It would have been very simple to verify from that, yes Lucy did make that phone call to Tania and when you look at where they were situated at the time of the telephone call, they could not have been at the scene of the robbery. End of story.
AMANDA (V/O): After the girls were released on bail, a church leader, Malcolm Peak overheard the 13 year-old tell Lucy and Tania that she’d lied to the police about their involvement. Malcolm Peak then went to Balmoral Police Station and told Detective Trevor Franklin that he believed she’d made a false confession.
MALCOLM PEAK: He listened, obviously very skeptically and then said to me something like, well no I don’t want to hear about it. We feel we’ve got the right girls, and he didn’t want to think about her changing her statement.
AMANDA (V/O): The church leader claims the detective then threatened him.
MALCOLM PEAK: I could be seen to be interfering with police witnesses and he advised me not to talk to her again.
BRYAN ROWE: I think it simply displays the mindset that Mr Franklin had about this case. He was satisfied he had the right people and he wasn’t prepared to hear anything to the contrary. And if that meant threatening people to butt out, then he would do that.
AMANDA (TO CAM): So despite all these fundamental flaws, the case miraculously travelled from the Youth Court, through Depositions all the way here to the High Court. Up until that moment the victim had never fronted up to any of the court hearings. She had never formally identified any of her attackers. But on day one of the court trial, she saw for the first time, the Crown’s star witness, the 13 year-old. Detective Franklin was with her and he pointed out the girl and said that there was one of the offenders. The victim now says that she told the detective then and there, that the 13 year-old was not one of her attackers.
(V/O): In a statement the victim would give later, she said:
“I thought this because she was too short, too young and too skinny. She did not look like any of the girls that attacked me.” She went on to say: “Trevor said, “Don’t worry, I’m sure it was them. You’re the good guy. They’re the bad guys”.
BRYAN ROWE: Alarm bells should have been ringing immediately. The officer in charge of the case must have known that his case rested almost entirely on the evidence of that young girl saying that she was one of the attackers. The case really has folded. It has self-destructed.
AMANDA (V/O): But it didn’t self-destruct. Although the victim of the crime had cast real doubts on the credibility of the key prosecution witness, the court case was allowed to go on. As the victim stood in the witness box, she saw for the first time the three girls accused of attacking her. She recognized Lucy. The victim was to say later:
“I recognized one of the girls. I had seen her at the Mangere swimming pool on a previous time, about 6 to 8 months before my attack. I knew she was not one of the girls that attacked me, and I would have recognized her on the day of my attack if she was there. She was not there.” Across the courtroom, Lucy also recognized the victim who she believed would say she was innocent.
LUCY AKATERE: When I first saw her I was like, telling the other two, Oh my gosh, that’s the girl that comes to my church. I’ve seen her before, and they were like, Why don’t you tell your lawyer. And I told my lawyer that I knew her from church.
AMANDA (V/O): Lucy’s lawyer is Geoff Wells. He is also the president of the Auckland Criminal Bar Association.
GEOFF WELLS: People make tactical decisions about what questions they ask and what questions they don’t ask?
AMANDA: But I’m sorry Mr Wells, Lucy came to you and she said “That girl knows me. She's known me for a long time. Please ask her to identify me as whether I'm an offender or not.”
GEOFF WELLS: I don't think that is correct.
AMANDA: I think it raises the point Mr Wells that had you explored it with your client, then it may have been something that would have been exposed then and there and the whole case would have come to a grinding halt.
GEOFF WELLS: I recall exploring it with my client and there was an uncertainty as to the actual fact whether that witness would be able to do that or not.
LUCY AKATERE: I mean everything was right in front of their faces. I mean they were the lawyers and you think they know everything but no.
AMANDA (TO CAM): So why did the victim never say anything about recognizing Lucy? She was never asked. Remember in fact that at no stage during the police investigation or the trial, did she ever identify the three girls as her attackers. We met with the victim, and she told us that as a 16 year-old Samoan girl who had only been in the country back then for just over a year, she was frightened by the attack, the police and the whole court process and because of that, she didn't want to speak up about knowing Lucy. She agreed to help us with our investigation and she provided a statement to Bryan Rowe. Later when we tried to contact her we were told she’d left her job and she’s since disappeared.
(V/O): So on September the 13th 2000, Tania Vini, Lucy Akatere and Macushla Fuataha were to be sentenced for a crime they never committed. And in a bitter twist, the fact that they were innocent, and continued to say so, meant they got longer sentences. Justice Randerson condemned the three girls for an attack that he said was carried out in a “bullying and cowardly manner”. And the judge went on to say their sentence had to take into account their continued denial of the offending and the consequent absence of remorse.
TANIA VINI: I didn’t get to say goodbye to anybody.
LUCY AKATERE: Just crying our heart out, just saying to ourselves, “How could this be happening?”
MACUSHLA FUATAHA: I just had so much hatred for a lot of people because, and I also had a lot of anger inside myself because I wasn’t with my family.
Backannounce: The three girls are about to spend their first night in jail as convicted criminals, and their families are about to fight to get them out. That's next.
End Part Two
The three girls are locked up in cells in Auckland’s grim,
Victorian Mount Eden jail. They're in prison with adults and the toughest of
criminals. But not everyone's abandoned hope. Tania's father is about to
sacrifice everything to get the girls out.
AMANDA (V/O): On September the 13th 2000, Mt Eden jail took in its three youngest inmates, one 14 and two 15 year-old teenagers. For the youngest, 14 year-old Macushla Fuataha who had supposedly slashed the victim of the armed robbery, it was her first night of a two-year sentence.
MACUSHLA FUATAHA: I was just scared of the fact that I would never, ever see my parents again.
AMANDA (V/O): Fifteen year-old Tania Vini had 18 months to serve.
TANIA VINI: We had one phone call to make. And I rang, rang up home. I didn’t say much because I was crying and I couldn’t get a word out.
AMANDA (V/O): Also in for 18 months was 15 year-old Lucy Akatere.
LUCY AKATERE: I couldn’t sleep. I'd be too scared to go to sleep. I just kept praying to y’know the Man above, and just telling Him to guide me and help me through this.
AMANDA (V/O): On the outside, the 13 year-old wrestled with guilt over her false confession that led to her mates being locked up.
13 YEAR OLD: Started to do stupid things like trying to kill myself, just doing heaps of bad stuff, like drinking my life away, using heaps of drugs to make my sorrows go away. But it didn’t work, just got even worse.
AMANDA (V/O): The three girls lived for visiting time on Saturdays, an hour that would emotionally shred them and their families, especially their Mums.
TANIA VINI: The first visit we didn’t say much. I just sat there crying.
CATHY VINI: I come back from work at night. This is where I stay, in the kitchen, watch TV, smoking, thinking what to do. Put the Bible in front of me and pray. Pray to God to help me, bring my daughter out.
AMANDA: When were the hardest times?
LUCY AKATERE: The whole time I was in jail.
PATE AKATERE: I never let her go. No. I just hold her, made me, you know feel better, just holding her.
MACUSHLA FUATAHU: Like I’d wait through the week to see my parents. Soon as they come, soon as I see them, I like, start to cry and that and then I don’t want to leave them.
SUE FUATAHU: When I first went to see her in prison she was with all the other ladies and all you could look at was this little child.
AMANDA (V/O): The community, close friends and even relatives turned against the girls believing in their guilt and dividing the families, like Cathy’s.
CATHY VINI: They believe the police that she did it. For seven months my daughter being inside, I never talk to my mother, not even, can never ring me up.
AMANDA: Oh Cathy. You mean it divided your own family?
CATHY VINI: Yeah that’s the worst part. It hurt. Cause I’m very close to my Mum. I used to ring her every day, then this thing happened. I heard what she said. I turned my back on her. And also my sisters. I turn my back on them too.
AMANDA (V/O): Macushla’s mother Sue and Lucy’s mum Pate were also dealing with the same rejection and isolation. The families turned to each other for support and Tania’s father, Vini had a plan to get the girls out but it would cost them dearly. The Vini family sacrificed their life savings in hiring a private investigator.
CATHY VINI: When she was inside, very hard life. He can’t eat, live on bread and butter.
AMANDA (V/O): But once more the families were betrayed. The hired gun would drain them of four thousand dollars.
MR VINI: I worked hard for that money. He took it from me. He kept coming for more money, more money and he kept lying.
AMANDA (V/O): The private investigator, David Pinomi has been found guilty of defrauding the family by misrepresenting himself as a private investigator. He’s been ordered by the courts to pay back the $4,000 to Mr Vini at just $15 per week. The first payment arrived just a few days ago. We found David Pinomi who denied he’d ripped off the Vini family. He maintains his fee didn’t even cover his costs.
DAVID PINOMI: The four thousand dollars they bring to me, is not worth it to cover my cost of calling around to have the information about the case.
REPORTER: You're saying what, you gave them a good deal, a cheap deal?
DAVID PINOMI: I think so. But that's all I can say, that the family should be proud what a job was being done, and I was helping them.
AMANDA (V/O): The only plus out of the Vini family’s dealings with the so-called P.I. was that he introduced them to lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, who admired the passion he saw in Tania’s father.
GARY GOTLIEB: Mr Vini, this man who I got to know reasonably well, would come in each time and you'd just, this is a man who it burned away at him. He was the driving force for this happening and credit has to be given to Mr Vini. And all the other families give Mr Vini the credit.
AMANDA (V/O): Gary Gotlieb called on a real private investigator, former cop with 33 years experience, Bryan Rowe. He began by interviewing the girls. First up was Tania.
BRYAN ROWE: It didn’t take me long to get very, very strong feelings that she was innocent. Then it was a matter of working through the paper work and you didn’t have to be an Einstein to see that this case had gone terribly wrong.
LUCY VINI: That’s when my hopes started building up you know, come on, we can do this. We’re going to get out. You know Bryan’s going to get us out.
AMANDA (V/O): Then Bryan Rowe went to Mt Roskill to visit the 13 year-old prosecution witness. For the first time she put it on the record that she’d made a false confession. She claimed she did it after being intimidated by Detective Trevor Franklin. Then the private investigator turned facilitator in a tense meeting at Mt Eden when the 13 year-old fronted up to the betrayal of her friends.
13 YEAR OLD (TAPED): I really loved you fullas, until this came upon us. I'm real sorry. I'm real sorry... that's why I'm here, to help you fullas get out.
LUCY VINI: My whole body was just full of anger.
13 YEAR OLD: I was apologizing to them. I told them “You don’t have to accept it”, because I understood where they were coming from.
AMANDA: Did that help?
TANIA VINI: No it was too late. We were already inside.
MACUSHLA FUATAHU: At that time, I was like I really hated her. I had a lot of anger inside me, towards her.
AMANDA (V/O): The new statement from the 13 year-old prompted Gary Gotlieb to lodge an appeal to have their convictions quashed. And on April 12, 2001 after 210 days in jail, the girls were released from Mt Eden, but still were on bail.
TANIA VINI: At first I didn’t believe it until I heard it from my Mum.
AMANDA: What did she say?
TANIA VINI: Pack your stuff, you’re coming home.
MACUSHLA FUATAHU: God has blessed us all. He's answered all our prayers.
LUCY AKATERE: We just started jumping up in the air, y’know like Oh my gosh, we’re free. Can you smell the air? Fresh air.
AMANDA (V/O): Six months later, in a blaze of publicity, the Appeal Court finally overturned the three girls' convictions. Justice Gault said the three girls had the court’s sympathy for the injustice that had wrongly sent them to prison. He went on to say the “investigation and the trial system failed in this case” and the wrongful conviction “raises questions of conduct by the police which is a serious matter and must be properly investigated”. Gault also praised Bryan Rowe saying he “has painstakingly exposed the unsatisfactory aspects of the prosecution.” The police responded with a personal apology to the girls by Auckland’s Superintendent Howard Broad who promised a reinvestigation. At the same, a Police Complaints Authority inquiry was launched. The three girls had been stripped of two years of school and teenage life. Now they wanted to retrieve some normality. They began by trying to go back to school. Lucy and Tania had been at Mt Roskill Grammar where both, according to the principal Ken Rapson, had had erratic attendance records, especially Lucy.
KEN RAPSON: We couldn’t see that situation would have improved given the experiences they’d had, so our advice was that they find an alternative to school rather than coming back to school and expecting to slot back into a normal year 11 class.
GARY GOTLIEB: Disgraceful. It was absolutely unbelievable. I would have probably been as stroppy and as rude to him as he's ever had anyone in his life, and he was so arrogant and like, ‘I am God.’
KEN RAPSON: Mr Gotlieb took a different view and I didn’t appreciate the way he approached the matter.
AMANDA (V/O): In the end all three girls were enrolled at Mt Roskill Grammar but the problems escalated while they waited to start school. In the Vini home, their daughter had changed. Tania was now angry and drinking.
TANIA VINI: I couldn’t express how I felt when I was sober. When I was under the influence of alcohol everything came out.
CATHY VINI: I said to her, “You keep on lying to me that you’re not drinking. You’re not going to touch that. You keep on lying and lying to me. Why did you do that to me?” And she said, “You wasn’t in jail. It’s me who had been in jail. Mummy I’m sorry I put you down because of this.”
AMANDA: How much did that worry you?
TANIA VINI: Worried me heaps because I was hurting my parents.
CATHY VINI: And I told her when she was sober, “Don’t do it. Alcohol will lead you into bad things like killing yourself or doing stupid things like taking drugs, all those kind of things.”
AMANDA: Have you fear that Tania would do something as rash as that, since she's got out, that she would perhaps kill herself?
CATHY VINI: Yeah. I told her she hurts me a lot.
AMANDA (V/O): Macushla’s parents were also dealing with a daughter who was drowning her pain in alcohol. And her mum, Sue was the target for Macushla's rage.
SUE FUATAHU: She takes all her anger out on me.
AMANDA: She’s really worried for you.
MACUSHLA FUATAHU: But I don’t know like, why she doesn’t tell me that herself.
AMANDA: Lucy hadn’t got into alcohol. When we first interviewed her, she was 17 and seven months pregnant.
LUCY VINI: I’d just been in jail so long you know. It just made me go out and do something stupid and now I’m pregnant. But I don’t regret it though.
AMANDA (V/O): And out in their community, the girls and their families are still dealing with the prejudice and suspicion that they’re criminals.
CATHY VINI: Sometimes when we come on the street you can see the people looking at her. I just pretend that I didn’t see them. Sometimes she look at Mum. I say, “No. Keep on going. Ignore them.”
TANIA VINI: Like even though we’re innocent, they go, “Oh those girls were probably on track for going to prison anyway."
GARY GOTLIEB: People say where there’s smoke there’s fire, all this sort of crap, excuse my language. That’s how angry I get over it. It’s just unacceptable that people are still suspicious and they think there must be something there. Why would the police do this? Well the police did it. And shouldn’t have done it.
End Part 3
AMANDA (V/O): Police had got the wrong girls and the real villains of the Three Kings robbery are still out there. But private investigator Bryan Rowe believes that he has information on the offenders. He’s provided police with a sworn statement from a new witness, a woman who says she was with the real offenders when they bragged about the attack. But there have been no arrests. And it wasn’t until this week that police headquarters in Wellington announced that an enquiry team had completed its investigation into the original crime.
That report is sitting on the desk of the Police Commissioner, Rob Robinson, along with an updated report from the other team who investigated the conduct of the police in the case against the three girls.
(TO CAM): 20/20 requested an interview with the police commissioner. Several days later, we received this one paragraph statement back from him in which it says, “Police have apologised to the three girls. We regret the time taken to deal with all the issues. These are complicated matters that are being worked through with all the parties involved.” He goes on to say, “the issues will be resolved, but it would be highly premature to comment on the actions of any police officer until the process has been completed.”
(V/O): We know that an initial report into the police conduct was rejected by Bryan Rowe and Gary Gotlieb after the investigating team had failed to interview the complainants, the three girls and their parents. The cop originally in charge of the case, Trevor Franklin has continued working, despite the concerns of the Appeal Court and the criticism of the investigation by Auckland’s superintendent, Howard Broad.
HOWARD BROAD: This is a failure of the criminal justice system of which the police form the front end and a vital part, and our actions have contributed to this result.
AMANDA (V/O): But 10 months after those comments, there’s still no results from the Police Complaints investigation. That delay’s unacceptable to Bryan Rowe.
BRYAN ROWE: In fairness to him, because if the allegations aren’t well-founded, he should be cleared as soon as possible. He shouldn’t have it hanging over his head. On the other hand, if the allegations are serious, then maybe that person shouldn’t be in the police.
AMANDA (V/O): Rowe’s view is that there are serious allegations to answer in relation to Franklin's tactics. Take for example that the 13 year-old alleges that Franklin told her that he had three people admitting that they had done the robbery and that she was in on it. But at the time he was interviewing her, none of the three had confessed. Bryan Rowe, a former police officer admits that this is a tactic commonly used by some police officers.
BRYAN ROWE: Now the danger of it is simply this, that if as a result of lying or conning, whatever you like to call it, you actually get a confession from the person you’re interviewing, you’ve got to be very, very careful that confession is a correct confession.
AMANDA (V/O): Bryan Rowe also questions the accuracy of affidavits that Franklin swore on oath to obtain search warrants.
BRYAN ROWE: There is prima facie evidence that lies have been told on oath but he’s entitled to make an explanation over that.
AMANDA (V/O): He believes Franklin put information in the search warrant request which was not true, about ages, the number of attackers and their clothing. We wanted to get Detective Constable Trevor Franklin’s response to this and other serious allegations. But he was ordered by his District Commander not to appear on the programme. His lawyer however wrote to 20/20, saying Franklin “had co-operated fully with the police complaints investigation from the time the allegations were first raised last year”, and that, “he provided a detailed statement which strongly denies any allegations of misconduct and he has fully explained his actions. He welcomes the completion of the investigation as it will enable all of the information to be placed in the public arena.” Detective Franklin says he ran a proper investigation, so where does that leave the 13 year-old who claims he made her lie?
(I/V): What if Detective Franklin says, she's lying? I never treated her like that. I never did that to her.
13 YEAR OLD: Cos he won’t admit the fact that he did do that to me.
AMANDA: You convince me then that this isn’t a lie that you’re telling me?
13 YEAR OLD: It isn’t. And if they think it’s lies then they should just do a proper investigation and get someone who will do the investigation.
AMANDA (V/O): Sixteen months after the three girls were released from Mt Eden, 18 year-old Lucy is now Mum to four month-old, Rosalee. And she’s focusing on being a good mother.
LUCY AKATERE: I’m going to make sure my kid doesn’t go through what I went through.
AMANDA: But when most people say that Lucy, they’ve done something wrong. They’ve actually committed a crime and made a mistake. You never did that.
LUCY AKATERE: Yeah, I know I didn’t do it but I still went in there.
AMANDA: It’s quite a story to tell your baby when he or she grows older.
LUCY AKATERE: I’m not sure I want to tell it.
AMANDA (V/O): Macushla’s the only one at Mt Roskill Grammar. She’s studying a customer services course, but is still absent for a quarter of the classes. And her mum Sue says she’s struggling.
MACUSHLA FUATAHU: Half of the time I felt like I just let my Mum down.
AMANDA: None of this was your fault. None of this was any of your doing, was it Macushla. You didn't do anything wrong. How could you feel that?
MACUSHLA FUATAHU: Cause I felt like I put my mum to shame going into that place, and like everyone saying to her, “Good job”, giving her shit, hurting her. It was all because of me.
SUE FUATAHU: Sometimes she just wants to give up on life. She doesn’t want to bother with anybody or anything.
AMANDA: You mean you believe she’s been quite suicidal?
SUE FUATAHU: Yes she has.
AMANDA: It’s a big responsibility to guide her through this isn’t it?
SUE FUATAHU: It is but I love her so I’ll do my best for her.
AMANDA: And Tania’s now doing an employment training course. She wants to be a social worker and help others avoid going to prison. She says she’s given up alcohol but still wrestles everyday with what the system has done to her and her two friends, and what one so-called friend did to them.
TANIA VINI: I’ll forgive her but I’ll never forget.
AMANDA: How could you forgive her though?
TANIA VINI: We were going to church and one of our leaders said “Forgive thine enemies” It took me a while to forgive her. I did forgive her but it’s always going to be there.
AMANDA (V/O): That ex friend, the 13 year-old is now a 16 year-old mother who will never forgive herself for the betrayal of her friends.
13 YEAR OLD: I can never, never make up for what I did to them.
AMANDA: Who do you think though should share some of that guilt that you're feeling?
13 YEAR OLD: Trevor.
AMANDA: Trevor Franklin, the detective?
13 YEAR OLD: Yeah. He should feel what I’m going through and what I went through.
AMANDA (V/O): There’s still unfinished business, the girls have had no counselling or compensation, so they’ve come to Gary Gotlieb’s office to each send off an urgent letter to the Minister of Justice. But the prospect of money has brought another conflict into their lives.
LUCY AKATERE: I suddenly had family members coming back asking me “Oh how are you? How was it in there?” And I was like, “Where were you when I was inside?” I had no one but my mother supporting me. No one.
MACUSHLA FUATAHU: Because of all the comments everyone was saying about me, that really, really hurt. Even like hear it from my own family and now that there’s money coming in. it’s, “Oh yes I feel sorry for you.” You know they all want to know me now, but they weren’t there for me in the beginning.
AMANDA (V/O): A trust is being set up so that no one other than the girls and their immediate family will get the money. But no amount can compensate them for the devastation wrought on their lives. Nor can dollars paper over the cracks in our justice system exposed by this case.
BRYAN ROWE: The whole thing’s so sad. It shouldn’t have happened. And when you get stuck into it and you find the system doesn’t want to listen.
AMANDA: Everybody who played a role in letting these girls down, what do you think they are now wrestling with?
GARY GOTLIEB: Their consciences of course. I presume they have them.