A third murder trial has been set for serial rapist Malcolm Rewa but it's likely the Crown will still have to overcome legal hurdles.
Rewa appeared briefly at the High Court in Auckland today after the Solicitor General sought to remove a stay of prosecution for the murder of Susan Burdett.
Ms Burdett was found raped and bludgeoned to death in her South Auckland home in 1992.
Rewa's DNA was found at the scene. He was eventually sentenced to 22 years in prison for the rape of 25 women, but two juries could not decide if he was guilty of murdering Ms Burdett and a stay of proceedings was issued.
Instead, Teina Pora was convicted for the crime on the strength of a false confession.
Mr Pora served 22 years in prison for crimes he never committed until his convictions were quashed by the Privy Council in 2015.
Rewa's defence lawyer has indicated he may seek a Judicial Review of the Solicitor General's stay or may seek a further stay.
Justice Moore has reserved eight weeks for a trial in February 2019.
RNZ understands Rewa is eligible for parole in May next year.
A team of homicide investigators have been working on the case since May, in the event of a third trial going ahead.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was Labour's justice spokesperson last year, she said Rewa's case needed to be re-examined.
She said the Privy Council's decision to quash Teina Pora's convictions was enough of a reason to re-open the case.
Criminal Bar Association president Len Anderson said that a stay of prosecution had never been lifted before.
He said a stay was supposed to be final, and there is no legal mechanism to remove it.
Mr Anderson said if the stay was lifted it could have repercussions for other cases.
"If it can happen it means in the future, when there is stay granted, the person whose proceedings are stayed may be always be at risk of them being set aside if something new happens."
Leading defence lawyer Nigel Hampton QC told RNZ last month that overturning the stay would be difficult.
"A stay is just that, it's a permanent stay. Historically, that has never been able to be set aside."
Timeline of the Susan Burdett case
- 1987 - A woman accuses Malcolm Rewa of rape and gives his name and description to police.
- 23 March 1992 - Susan Burdett raped and murdered in her South Auckland home.
- 25 March 1992 - Ms Burdett's body discovered in her bedroom, bludgeoned to death.
- 18 March 1993 - Teina Pora arrested for interfering with cars and during an interview with police he mentions the Burdett case and that he knew who was responsible.
- 23 March 1993 - A year to the day of Ms Burdett's death, Pora is charged with Ms Burdett's murder, rape and aggravated robbery.
- 15 Jun, 1994 - Pora found guilty.
- May 1996 - Malcolm Rewa charged with multiple rapes.
- 7 December 1998 - Rewa's second High Court trial. He's convicted of raping 27 women, including Ms Burdett. A jury cannot decide if he is responsible for her murder.
- 24 December 1998 - The Solictor General decides not to retry Rewa for the murder of Ms Burdett and issues a stay of prosecution.
- 20 January 1999 - Rewa sentenced to 14 years in prison for the rape of Ms Burdett.
- 3 March 2015 - Pora's convictions quashed.
- 30 June 2016 - Police Commissioner Mike Bush says he believes Rewa is guilty of Ms Burdett's murder.
- 16 May 2017 - The Solicitor General agrees to make an application to the High Court to re-try Rewa.
- 22 November 2017 - The Crown moves to lift a stay of proceedings, clearing the way for a third trial of Rewa.
- 06 December 2017 - Malcolm Rewa appears at the High Court in Auckland where a trial date has been set for February 2019