Amanda Saxton and Florence Kerr of Stuff.co.nz investigate.
NGA TEINA says he has diagnosed and cured more than a thousand people of cancer with his God-given powers, which involve vigorously rubbing their naked bodies.
“I didn’t want to do this job, but God wanted me to do this job,” the former digger driver with no medical training says.
His neighbour John Peyroux attests to the self-declared healer’s talents. Carloads of clients roll up to the south Auckland home round the clock, and neighbours occasionally hear “groaning” coming from Teina’s side of the fence.
“At first I just thought, ‘oh, there must be a party going on’,” says Peyroux, 56, who’s lived next door to Teina for a year.
One day Teina invited him over for a massage. He told Peyroux he was a faith healer and sensed the caregiver had cancer.
Peyroux’s met a few unorthodox men of medicine in his time – mainly in the Cook Islands, where the men were born – and Teina struck him as “a normal old faith healer”. Peyroux knows he “definitely doesn’t have cancer”, so declined Teina’s offer of a follow-up massage.
Teina, 62, says up to 40 people a day arrive at his house for an “unblocking”, as he calls his massages. Most hail from the Pacific, most are female, and he says their ages have ranged between 13 and the late eighties. Clients pay what they are able, which is often nothing. Teina’s adult sons support him financially, believing their dad does God’s work. A devout Christian, Teina claims God ordered him to stop driving diggers about 10 years ago so he could focus full time on healing.
Teina has believed in his power to heal since he was a child. When he was 11, a horse fell onto his leg and left it paralysed. Movement returned when he rubbed the limb: it was then he “was sure God had given me powers”.
He now travels the Cook Islands, New Zealand and the world at the request of clients (and on their dime).
IN MARCH, an elderly woman from Tokoroa complained to police that Teina had touched her inappropriately during a treatment session. He currently faces one charge of indecent assault and is scheduled to appear in the Tokoroa District Court next week.
He was believed to have performed “indecent acts on men and women under the guise of healing people of cancer” in the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand, police said.
Last week, police contacted the Pacific Island Church in Tokoroa to inform them of their investigation into Teina. Church leader and chairman of the Tokoroa Cook Island community group Charlie Turia says parishioners were informed during a Sunday service.
The church has put support systems in place, he says.
On Friday, police confirmed more alleged victims had come forward and further charges may be laid. One woman, who did not want to be named to protect her family members that are massaged by Teina, says some in her community “actually believe he can cure cancer”.
“I have family that go and see him and they’re like, ‘I feel so much better after seeing him,’ and I’m like, ‘you only feel better because you actually got up and walked and got some exercise’.”
She accuses Teina of playing the “cruellest scam on some of our sick people, who are desperate for a cure”.
IN SOUTH Auckland, Teina’s clinic looks like a haunted circus tent. It’s a structure made of grubby tarpaulins extending from what once was a garage behind his house.
‘Come in’, reads a sign above its doorless entrance. The interior is carpeted with bright woven Pasifika mats, each a different design. There’s seating for several dozen, plastic flower bouquets, and a huge white bucket with a label declaring it once held 30kg of custard filling. ‘DONATIONS’ has been scrawled on the bucket in black marker.
A massage table has been cordoned off behind a white curtain in one corner of the space. Framed pictures of Jesus form a frieze around the makeshift room.
The first thing Teina does with a new patient is explain exactly how he goes about treating their supposed cancer, he says.
They take their clothes off. Some leave undies on, says Teina, but most do not. If they prefer, they can don a floral lavalava that Teina will reach beneath to ensure the skin-on-skin contact.
Patients lie on the massage table and Teina rubs them (or “unblocks them”, as he calls it) vigorously, all over their bodies. It only takes a few minutes, he says.
When Stuff.co.nz visited, five people sat around a table beneath the tarpaulin roof. All claimed Teina had cured them of cancer.
Amaru Ngatuakana, a pastor from Glen Innes, said Teina diagnosed him with prostate, liver and lung cancer the first time they met, just by looking at him. It was true Ngatuakana felt very sick – but doctors had been unable to tell him what was wrong, the 68-year-old Cook Islander explained. “I asked what had caused the cancer, and he told me it was careless eating.
“Then he told me he had a gift from God and could cure my cancer. He gave me his card, and I could see on the card that this is what he does.”
Ngatuakana had 21 sessions with Teina before being declared cancer free, by Teina. That was in 2017. His wife, Esther, was also sick that year and also diagnosed by Teina as having cancer.
“I would never allow chemotherapy because I trust in God and have the option to come here instead,” the 71-year-old said. She went in for 21 sessions as well.
The others there had almost identical stories. Nui Tuakana, a retired seamstress, said she “would never trust a doctor because all they want is money”. The 66-year-old believed Teina diagnosed and cured her cancer within 21 days as well. “I started bringing all my family to Nga and now they’ve all been cured,” she said.