'Long way to go' in Portman case

ROB KIDD
Last updated 10:50 02/11/2012
Paraire Te Awa
ACCUSED: Paraire Te Awa has been charged with the murder of Rae Portman. Another, unnamed man has been charged with her kidnapping.
Rae Portman
VICTIM: Rae "Bok" Portman.

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Four months after Rae ''Bok'' Portman was reported missing, a man has finally been charged with her murder.

Hamilton 32-year-old Paraire Hori Te Awa - known as Friday - appeared in Papakura District Court yesterday accused of kidnapping and killing the 33-year-old.

Another 35-year-old Auckland man with name suppression has also been accused of kidnapping Portman but detective inspector Mark Gutry, who has led the homicide investigation, said it was unlikely he would face any more serious charges.

Portman travelled from Waikato to Auckland and was last seen at a Mt Albert motel on June 20 before being reported missing two weeks later by her mother Rebecca Norton.

Two months after that, at a press conference at Counties Manukau Police headquarters, Norton revealed her daughter was four-months pregnant when she disappeared - the unborn son was named Brooke.

From the outset police acknowledged Portman moved among the shadowy drug world and friends confirmed she was both using methamphetamine and moving into selling it.

However, the same friends were quick to back her as a selfless, loving person who would go out of her way for other people.

After weeks of seemingly fruitless investigation, frustration and paranoia grew amidst Portman's associates, who all began to suspect someone among them secretly knew the details of her abduction.

Several arrests were made through police enquiries but police promptly poured cold water on their relevance to her actual disappearance.

Then at the end of September the case was blown open as police released information about two cars they believed were involved in kidnapping Portman, and on September 27 Te Awa was up in court on a kidnapping charge.

Unknown to the public, the 35-year-old Aucklander was also charged but police placed a blanket suppression on all details of his arrest and court appearance until he appeared again last month.

A day after Te Awa's court appearance, police announced they had found a body at a rural Ardmore address.Shortly after, it was confirmed as Portman.

Though there was an element of closure, Norton and her daughter's friends had all spoken about their fears of her body being ''out in the open'' and sadly those fears were realised.

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Police discovered the body at the back of a residence, only saying she was ''covered'', but essentially she had been dumped by a creek.

Family have refused to comment since the press conference but sources said they have been devastated by the ordeal.

Gutry said this phase of the investigation was ''pretty much completed'' but there was a lot of work left to do in preparation for court and more if the matter went to trial.

''It's pleasing to get to where we're at now but there's a long way to go,'' he said.

At his first appearance in court Te Awa cried and mouthed words to his family in the public gallery but yesterday he was composed during the brief hearing.

Police requested more time for disclosure, which was granted by Judge Russell Callendar.

Te Awa, who has been at Mt Eden Prison since his arrest, will be back before the court at the end if the month. His kidnapping co-accused will be back in three weeks.

If the case goes to trial, a court back log means it would probably take place in 2014.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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