Tuesday, August 28, 2012

David Bain - A Closer Look at Someone Accused Of Murdering Their Own Family

What makes the David Bain case fascinating is how compelling the evidence is against him.   The murders in Dunedin, New Zealand, sharply divided New Zealanders on the question of his guilt. Bain himself credits his father with murdering his family, and refers to a typed message on the family computer that he says his father typed: sorry, you were the only one who deserved to stay.

After being convicted for murder a year and a day after the tragedy, for murdering his father Robin, Mother Margaret, sister's Arrawa and Laniet, and brother Stephen, Bain served thirteen years in prison.  New Zealand's Privy Council then reviewed the case and found him not guilty by reasonable doubt (but not sufficiently not guilty to warrant compensation for time served in jail for an alleged (according to Bain) miscarriage of justice.

So did Bain do it or not?

Below is a transcript of a speech by Bain from March 2012.  In it Bain describes the murder scene very briefly, but spends an lot of time describing the food he had to eat (cold fish and chips) in jail, the size of the cell etc. If you look very closely at David's description of the meat and potatoes of the murder scene, he spends very little time (barely a sentence per slain family member, see red bold highlights from the transcript) giving any description of the murder scene and an awful lot of time describing how his own life has been impacted and inconvenienced.  He's also vague on specifics: "An hour or so later I returned home" but provides the exact number of days spent in jail, and exactly references his prison number.  He also does not mention that he called a family conference which was why his sister Laniet was - unusually - also at home that night. 

Interestingly, David saw himself as making it big on the world stage as a choir singer (see red bold highlights in the transcript), and apparently planned his family's funeral down to the T, from the flowers, to the various songs he would perform to the funeral congregation in honor of various family members.  In the transcript he makes specific reference to the fact that he missed the funeral.  It's an emotional admission, and seemingly David was more distressed about missing this chance to perform, than the actual fact of his family members no longer being alive.

Listen to the speech here.  Note slips of the tongue after 30 minutes: "wanted to wash print...newspaper ink off my hands" and "fighting the system...er...fighting depression..."

 David Bain's Perth speech: full transcript

David Bain in Perth
Bohdan Warchomij
FINALLY FREE: David Bain told a Perth conference that prison damaged him.
David Bain's address to the International Justice Conference in Perth on March 10.
Good morning - I'm so nervous I should have gone to the toilet. Good morning ladies and gentlemen, distinguished exonerees, members of the system. My name is David Bain and I want to tell you a little story that spans 15 years.
On Monday June 20, 1994, at 5.30am my night's sleep was broken by my alarm. A few minutes later I got out of bed, dressed and ran out the door to do my paper run. An hour or so later I returned home and any sense of peace in my life was forever taken away when I found my mother dead in bed, blood streaming down her face.
Then as I stumbled around my home in vain trying to help or to find out what had happened. One by one I found the rest of my family.

First night of 4613
Friday evening, June 24, 6.30pm I was handed a tray with cold fish and chips, and introduced to my cell. Then the door locked on my first day of 4613 days locked up for something I did not do.
Mum and Dad married in 1970. I was a born in 1972. Then a year later the opportunity came to go to PNG as missionaries. So Mum and Dad jumped at the chance. Not only did he (Robin Bain) run religious education but he was a lecturer at the teachers college and eventually pioneered many opportunities for locals to establish schools and churches in some of the most remote areas of the interior. Each of us kids developed strong interests in the outdoors as he taught us how to abseil, to read maps, to scuba dive, to sail, to read the bush and look after everyone in your family. Life in Papua New Guinea was a child's ideal.

We grew up in a pacific paradise. We were running around all day in nothing but a pair of shorts and sunscreen. Our weekends were filled with visits to the local river or beach, sailing and swimming... there were picnics, church events. It was just one big playground.
My father was the deputy principal of the Port Moresby Teachers College. He had a strong and stoic character, was a perfect leader and widely respected. The old man was a hugely capable man with a variety of arts, as he acted and he was a very good singer. He loved all kinds of physical pursuits and he took great pride in his family. Dad loved making toys for us kids and helped us with our school work, building tree houses and taking us out for new experiences. I remember Dad in a confrontation in PNG. He shepherded me behind him and continued talking to the guy until it was resolved. He was a man who could handle any situation and I had implicit trust in him.
I will always remember the examples he set and forever be grateful for his help in becoming the man I am today.

Bain's mother Margaret
My mother Margaret. Mum had more artistic interests and with some effort was able to get involved in music, theatre and pottery while also keeping us four kids in line. When we came back in 1988, I was 16, suffered from acne and had just recovered from a bad dose of malaria so was a terribly skinny six foot two and was trying to find a place for myself among some very judgemental 16-year-old peers.
It was during this time that Mum and I became very good friends. She was wise enough to realise she could not remain Mum in our eyes forever and that she would have to find a way to maintain her relationship with a group of developing teenagers. This combined with our need to sort out all confusing issues of life as a teenager. If we had any problems or emotional issues we were all comfortable to sit and talk with her about it. I had come to trust her and see her as my friend and confidante.

Sister Arawa
My sister Arawa. Arawa had steel in her spirit. She knew from quite early on what she wanted to be and that was to be a teacher. So she worked hard towards that goal and determination was such a positive part of her character. She was known for her compassion, her friendliness, her approachability and she was quite beautiful.
As we settled into New Zealand life she quickly found her feet and found fitting into NZ culture quite easy, eventually becoming the head girl at our high school. Arawa and I became the best of friends as we grew older and developed a certain respect for each other while dealing with our tertiary studies. She was 19 and in her second year of Teachers College.

Sister Laniet 

My little sister Laniet had a quiet and often reserved character. She would sit for hour hours painting or playing her little girl games. Despite those differences Laniet and I got on quite well. Even now I know I would be very protective of her. She was just one of those people who naturally related to you and was softly engaging in a way that inspired quite compassionate connection. In later years she developed into the rebellious teenager she was later known for and her life seemed to derail from the so-called correct path and I did my best to stay in touch and when she had problems or moved flats always answered her call to help. Unfortunately it was to me she sought help in the days leading up to the 20th of June. It was one of the most painful aspects of the tragedy that I only learned of this through a friend after everything became my nightmare.
Due to my attention being focused on my own life and all the fantastic things I was getting involved in I was unaware of the malevolent undercurrents that were happening in my own family. I often wish I could have done something. If I had only seen her on that day when she sought my help this could have been the one thing that might have changed the outcome.

Brother Stephen
My little brother. Stephen had a different approach to life as he was the youngest and in my view spoiled rotten.
He was less responsible and had more of a carefree attitude seeming to think things would just take care of themselves while I had always had a sense of responsibility for my younger siblings. Stephen revelled in the chance to get out and play with his friends. We were athletic guys and close brothers so we always had time to go to the movies, to play tennis or go out bush with Dad. He also seemed to look up to me a little and would often come asking to play with my stuff. He was cheeky, curious energetic wily and a real charmer and extremely popular with all his friends and anyone who engaged his interest. My little brother was only 14.

Return to New Zealand
In 1988 our last year in PNG, crime was on the rise and it had become quite concerning for Mum and Dad who had four young kids and as time moved on the distance between the life we were living and that of our NZ cousins grew so we left with many regrets ...to life in New Zealand.
When we got here we all found it quite difficult to settle in and struggled emotionally through the first few months- climate, culture, social standing- and so on. We had left our friends behind and all the usual had to be made anew. It was at this time the cracks in our wonderful peaceful upbringing began to show.
The arguments between my parents had become more frequent as Dad found it quite difficult to get a teachers job that matched his qualifications.
And Mum realised NZ had pretty much left her behind. Dad ended up getting a position teaching in a country school that took 45 minutes to drive to and was far from the position he felt he should be in. All this internal strife eventually led to Dad living in a caravan at the back of our property and Mum seemed to descend into her own world of spirituality and special meaning. For the six years we lived in Dunedin Mum and Dad were essentially separated for the last four of them.

Bain's life was blossoming
During all this Arawa, Laniet, Stephen and I tried to get on with school, establishing friendships, all with varying degrees of success as I described. Arawa focused on teachers college, Laniet became more estranged from the household and the family. Stephen had a few issues but he was still a cool kid. As for me being a naive and wrapped up in my own newfound life I didn't really notice or pay much heed to what was happening around me.
Life had only just started. I had taken part in triathlons, joined the local harriers club, passed through outward bound. I sang in the Royal Dunedin Male choir and became involved with a group of young and enthusiastic amateur performers and started a degree in music and drama at university and formed three lovely (inaudible). To most of my friends I was just another normal slightly over active young guy. So that is my family. This is now where they rest. A nice quiet place on the outskirts of Dunedin. (photograph of grave shown).

Painful memories
A big question. I have never spoken of what happened on the morning of the 20th in any public way other than when I gave evidence at the trial. I was on the stand for a whole day. First giving my story as my lawyer asked his questions and then being cross examined by the prosecutor. It has always been far too painful, even when recounting my memories with my lawyers and counsellors they have been filled with pain. So I hope you will understand if I am a little hesitant in retelling these painful events.

On Sunday night, the 19th of June we all sat up to watch a movie that had been loaned to me by my girlfriend and we ate fish and chips for tea. About 8.30 another programme started that others wanted to watch so I decided to get off to bed. The only unusual aspect of the night was that Laniet was staying for the weekend as she had been living away from home for some time now. During the night I was roused, loud voices coming from the other end of the house and I think I heard Mum get up and head away in the car but it was just another argument. The next morning I went on my paper round. When I came back to the house afterwards I noticed Mum's light was on so I thought I will bring her a cup of tea. I went downstairs to the bathroom to wash the newspaper ink off my hands and did a load of washing as I was the first up.

When I walked back to my room and turned on the light I saw on the floor an open packet of bullets and the key lock to my rifle.

That's when the nightmare started. Unable to make sense of what I found and thinking she was awake I ran into her bedroom to find out what was going on. I pushed back the curtain. Mum Mum what's going on? She was in bed and reclined back on several pillows but there was blood streaming down her face. Up to this moment my memory is perfectly clear but from then on it is completely clouded by the shock I got. Seeing my mother like that. I didn't know if it was due to that moment or that I might have fainted or blacked out. I do have marginal recall of then going from room to room trying to help or to find out what was going on, calling to my family as I went. I found my brother Steven curled on the floor in his room. I saw Laniet in bed and Arawa also on the floor of her room. Twisted into an unnatural position. I then remember finding Dad on the floor of our lounge and my impression of black hands taking away my family came at that time.

Memories 'totally confused'
Of course I was in total disarray now and after finding that Dad could not help it finally dawned on me to dial the emergency number.
Standing here today my actual memories of that morning are totally confused. From the moment I found my family, the trauma of it all the time that had elapsed, all the evidence I have been listening to, the TV programmes, the police reconstructions and either of the trials might have caused this. However I will try and fill in the gaps a little for you in order to show what it was I experienced to have the effect of filling me with the intense feeling of fear and confusion. At the time all I wanted to do was find my father because he would help me to fix it.

As I now know my whole family had been killed by shots to the head. The horror was three fold. First all had been killed in various stages of wakefulness. (He then goes through the shots)
I called the emergency operator to explain the situation as best I could and I was very fortunate to have an operator to stay on the line and tried to help me. When the police finally got there about 25 minutes later I think I had already started blocking out what had happened because when they talked to each other that they had found five bodies I panicked again and I think I fainted.

The rest of that morning until I was removed from the house is much of a blur to me. I couldn't focus my attention on anything. I was cold, numb my mind had pretty much shut down, there were random thoughts of "got to go to university. I need to get that essay done. I've got a class to study for. Oh shit got to get the washing out." I couldn't think what had happened to me or why all these strangers were in the house.
Eventually I was taken to the CIB offices and a couple of detective began my first interview. Despite everything I had been through I still didn't really understand what had happened.
It was sometime into the interview that they told me. I guess because I was still in shock through that I was calmer I had time to relax ... at that point I was able to retain it ... despite the news at that moment cutting me totally to the core.

'You are now a criminal'
Later I had to go through a full medical strip search. Probed every part of my body. It was a humiliating experience but as they explained at the time it was necessary to eliminate me as a possible suspect. Yeah.

I had three more interviews with detectives and even had them come to help me to cope with the unimaginable reality that I was trying to go through. It was during one of these visits from a detective who looked after me that he put to me two possibilities. Either it was your father or it was you. The confusion that brought about when I was already in a fragile state of mind was almost too much to bear. Not too mention having to cope with all the distraught rellies, priests and grief counsellors. Until the Friday I was asked to go back to CIB offices for one more interview.

From the time I entered that room I knew things were not right and ten seconds later the cop was on me. He leaned over the desk in a bad rendition of any cop show putting the hard word on me. He pressured me to fess up telling me. I should be ashamed of myself. Throwing damning evidence at me and saying so. How do you explain that if you didn't do it? Through it all- you will think I was a damned fool- I kept trying to explain to show where they had got it wrong. That they were making a big mistake and until I saw it was making no difference I asked for a lawyer.

The detective response and I shall remember it forever was, "Congratulations David. You are now a criminal." A few hours later I was arrested fingerprinted and found myself on remand in a ten by eight cell in one of the coldest buildings in Dunedin. Even though it was only 10 ft above the ground it let in barely any light. There was a mattress on the floor, a bucket in the corner, two blankets and a steel reinforced door slammed on a daily basis behind me. After all I had been through in the week I had had trying to reconcile myself to what had happened; all I could do was cry myself to sleep.

Unable to go to family's funeral
The following morning after a very restless night I tried desperately to get somebody to let me go to my family's funeral but between the insistence of the police and my relatives' reluctance I was not allowed to attend. Another shattering blow to this day I feel the pain of being denied the basic right of saying goodbye to my family.

The first trial was an extremely stressful time as you can probably imagine and it is a period of my life that I truly wish I could blank out. Even now the horror of going through that experience haunts me and makes daily life tough. I was told by my lawyer at the time that he had everything under control and he assured me that we had a good defence. Despite these assurances I felt continually under attack throughout the entire process and having to go from my cell to the courtroom every day and back just sapped the strength out of me. There was never any chance of proving myself innocent when all that was presented portrayed me as some depraved loony. It was a continual and unbalanced fight.
They systematically destroyed my reputation and the old relationships I had and relations with my extended family. For the rest my life they painted me with the stigma of these harrowing events.
I went into this trial believing everything would be explained. It was just some horrible mistake. I would be exonerated and then be able to salvage something of my life. I even went onto the stand believing I would have the chance to set things straight. Telling the truth would set me free. For those of you not used to giving evidence or leading it, this is not what the witness box is for. Instead all I said seemed to fall on deaf ears.

I was either treated like a liar or twisted to suit the story that they wanted to hear depending of course on the version of the story that was (inaudible) at the time. The trial opened with one ... three or four presented during it and two during the closing.

None had any semblance of any of the memories I had. In my view the system has failed me. I believed it was there to protect me and it would make things right. It didn't. It betrayed me. Taking a person's innocence is the next highest crime and this is done with unconscionable and unchallenged regularity by the system we have put in place.

It has been given the power to take but this has become a creature without compassion and that will not and cannot restore even a measure of what has been stolen.

Becoming prisoner 18495923
In May 1995, not only had I lost my family, all I owned, all I had known of life in New Zealand but I had been charged and convicted of the worst crime possible. NZ's system had decided I was guilty of taking the lives of all those I loved. I became prisoner number 18495923, Just another statistic in a faceless system. At this point I have to admit my memories of the trial are very foggy. I don't remember hearing one guilty verdict even though they pronounced five. And after that apparently I collapsed and I was carried out of court. I felt as though the whole world had imploded with that first guilty verdict and I never entertained the thought I would be convicted of this horror.
My initial state ranged all over from bouts of hysteria and panic to being overwhelmed by the entangled mess that was far too awful to unravel- through depression and extreme periods of loss and loneliness to an almost zombie-like state. It affected my appetite and sleep patterns such as they were and eventually I was diagnosed as being clinically depressed. From this time on, my emotional, physical and mental health went all over the show as year after year, first my lawyer and then subsequent teams of lawyers and friends battled against the system.

Taking one appeal after another to the courts and continuing to dog the system I knew had got it wrong.
I have told several people over the years that I visualised my emotional and mental state as a jigsaw painstakingly putting it together very slowly. Rebuilt it, then it crashed down smashed to bits. The only reason I was able to carry on each time was because I was undergoing regular psychological counselling and I had many friends who were more than willing to help pick me up. When I was relatively stable again I began working on the jigsaw, putting it back together and knowing there was going to be another crash.
This ability to focus on my internal thoughts and continual efforts to maintain some form of composure was only possible by efforts on the outside to get justice for me.

Damaging changes in personality
My life in jail - You all have an idea, an impression of what life is like in prison. You've watched movies, dramas, read about it, might have studied it. But of course no matter how thorough the academic study is it cannot comprehend the impact on an individual unless one has experienced the event. To compound this, time is also a factor that has extreme influence over the overall effect of the prison experience.

Each of us here that have spent any time inside has a different experience but many aspects are quite common. The outcomes are also quite similar. There are deep reaching and damaging changes in personality, emotion, psychology.
But my personal experience over 13 years of being locked in my cell, from day one in fact, is something that speaks even today. It was a search and drive to find peace, peace of mind, peace of spirit, peace in my body, almost an impossible thing when considered from the outside and also in hindsight when I look at it all now I shudder at the prospect of having to go through all that again.
I guess that is one lesson of being quite naive at the time. For the first 12 months I spent on remand, I was confined to my cell 22 hours a day and checked on every 15 minutes for 12 months - every single 15 minutes - they turned the light on because they thought I was a risk to myself.
From that I walked into the hardest wing at Paparua Prison in Christchurch City. At exactly the same time 80 other guys were coming in from the yards.

"There were members of Mongrel Mob, Black Power, Skinheads and several other gangs they invaded that space with all their bolshie walks and tattoos exposed smoking cigarettes and being tough. It was one of the scariest moments in my life and I knew if I let it show they would just eat me alive."
After a couple of visits from some of the gang reps, I realised I would not survive without making some alliances. There were several other lifers who had no gang affiliations. Between us we developed a little informal group and watched out for each other.

The friendships that developed lasted through the years and some of the guys are still good friends of mine. Through it all I was only trying to ensure I would survive until the latest appeal. When the system rectified that dreadful miscarriage of justice that occurred. Living in short with the only way I could rationalise things and in effect accept my circumstances as they were just so wrong. If I had known I was going to spend that much time in there I would have done some further training that would have made my life now a lot easier.

However it was all I could do was stay focused at the appeal at hand and keep my emotional and psychological ..I never really adjusted to prison life and the damage it does to a person. I wouldn't accept the reasoning they gave to take a person's rights and privileges away and while I was continually battling depression, I poured my energies into finding a daily out.

I got out prison by working various jobs I spent hours writing letters and cards to a steadily growing list of friends and supporters. I read books. I enrolled in small papers to keep the academic stuff going and I read the newspaper and every day I called at least one person on the outside to hear what was happening. I just didn't belong there so I did my best to keep up with the world on the outside.

Becoming institutionalised
As time went on this way of thinking and the approach to life inside wasn't working. I became more and more depressed by the legal teams' ongoing battles to achieve anything in the courts. I knew I was becoming institutionalised as each year ground past and I hated myself for falling into that trap.
Despite my best efforts time had wore away my resolve and I had become as much a part of that environment as any of those bravado type guys who had walked into the wing.

In 2001 after seven years of constant legal battles I had a visitor from the other side of the world. It helped transform my attitude. Dr Rubin Hurricane Carter. He understood my situation because he had been there. I was floating in a void with no sense of direction and no hope. Rubin, the force of his personality, his 110 per cent attitude to life changed things for me. It was as if he opened a door to the void I was in. Just keep going. Don't succumb to the system. Be your own man. Stand proud.
I couldn't do things in the same way but it was enough to inspire me to find a way. I had to approach things more positively and I found an element of peace knowing I could continue to fight. While things did not change immediately for the better it did help me cope with life and survive long enough to see the tide change. One way or the other we made progress until my second trial in 2009 the last time I set foot in a courtroom as the accused.


Life is full of things that pressurise us. One doesn't realise how easy life is out here when compared to the life of an innocent man convicted and jailed.
I found pressure from the obvious sources - my lawyers' requests for information which challenged my memory but there were the less obvious. Friends wanted things from me. I had a relationship with a lovely lady. There were obvious stresses talking about our future. The possibility regular pressure from the media. One of the first jobs I had in prison was full of pressure. I worked in the kitchen for a little over a year and for a fair bit of that time I was the first cook.
Imagine the pressure I faced making sure the food was edible because when I had to walk back into the wing and face 80 hardened crims who had no inhibitions in telling you that the food sucked.
Then I got a job in the medical wing as a trustee and then that came with all the pressure that came from the junkies and lads who wanted a free hit. If I wasn't getting offers of cash, it was getting offers of the bash.

Nothing came of it. By this time the guys knew I could not be bribed or yield to threats. Conditions are what you make of them so with the help of my many friends I managed to keep the ledger in the black for the bulk of the time. I worked as a carpenter and then in an engineering shop, designing and building agricultural machinery. Just a way of keeping myself busy.

I recognise the people without whom I would not be here today. At the beginning there was a little group of friends who were outraged I had been charged because they knew me and how close I was to my family. They gathered together, raised money ....
Of all my friends there was one man whose charisma, whose strength and integrity shone through and gave me the ability to concentrate on surviving. Over countless visits he would promise to have me out by Christmas. Every Christmas for 11 years. Through phone calls and letters we formed an extremely close bond and absolute trust in each other.

I first met Joe in 1996 after the failure of our first appeal when he took up the baton and helped my lawyer take our first appeal to the Privy Council in London. After that first meeting I walked back into the wing and still had no idea of the man I immediately trusted. I told another guy and he was amazed I didn't know of Joe Karam.
He was a rock solid advocate. He is an incredibly dogged seeker of the truth. He is intelligent and welcomed me into his family. Today I am proud to call them some of my closest friends.
I would still be languishing in prison. I would never admit to something I did not do. I will forever be indebted to Joe. He represented a saviour when I had lost faith in the rest of humanity. Without Joe I would not be here at this special conference.
- © Fairfax NZ News

Analysis of David Bain's Speech >>>Via http://davidbain.counterspin.co.nz/blog/analysis-of-david-bains-speech

David Bain has now substantially spoken in public, so we can now make some attempt to work out what makes him tick.
In his speech in Perth, David says:  "They systematically destroyed my family's and my reputation. Everything I said fell on deaf ears." This is an interesting comment. It parallels the comment he made in the interview: "I can only thank my upbringing, my family, my Mum and Dad [who] helped us with our education, with our upbringing, with university studies and helped us become the people we are".  It appears that he identifies himself with the family to the extent that he IS the family. Anything that happens to him also happens to the family, even after they are long gone. So, when his reputation is destroyed, then so is the whole family's.  Similarly he talks about his siblings in the present tense, as if they are still alive, embodied in him.

This is an indication of lack of individuation, which is supposed to happen between puberty and adolescence, when the growing person begins to see himself as a separate entity from the family. It fits in with his rejection of the idea of leaving home and it fits in with his stories of stress and depression that he says he experienced in the alien environment of prison. This lack of individuation is his "naivite" he says prevented him from taking much notice of what was happening in the family up to the day of the murders.  This naivite would have come across to Karam as "guilelessness" and would have pulled at his paternal strings.  It would be fair to say, based on the extent and intensity of Karam's support of David Bain, that Karam is now David's significant "parental" other.

The most remarkable aspect of David Bain is his disconnectivity and lack of emotion.  Some have described him as being a psychopath but this is not likely.  Based on what we know about him, unable to fit in at school, the difficulties he posed as a child, failing to pass any papers in his first year at university, and his reluctance to leave home, among other things it is possible that he is just intellectually and emotionally challenged.

In relating the events of the murders in his speech, he describes the gory details of the murder scene and his family members in some detail but with no emotion.  Then he spends a long time covering the effect that the murders had on his life in terms of disrupting immediate events, such as university papers and being strip searched.  The "nightmare" and "unimaginable reality" that he describes appears to be largely focused on him suddenly becoming the prime suspect, rather than on the tragic loss of his family members and the absolute disaster that this would be for any young person.  The rest of the speech relates the effect of stress and the arduous experience of jail and two trials with no reference to how he felt about losing his entire family.  It is all about him:

26:18: "In my view the system has failed me.  I believed it was there to protect me and would make things right.  It didn't.  It betrayed me.  Taking a person's innocence is the next highest crime and this is done with unconscionable and unchallenged regularity by the system that we have put in place.  It has been given the power to take but this has become a creature without compassion and cannot and will not restore, even a measure, of what has been stolen."

The other 18 minutes of the 45 minute speech were spent relating his experiences in prison.  Given that this is a Justice Conference it is understandable that participants want to discuss this.  Joe Karam gets a mention right at the end of the speech.

I know that if I was falsely accused of murdering my family when in actual fact it was my father who did it, then I would feel some very strong resentment against my father for destroying the lives of my siblings and taking the pleasure of their company away from me.  I would have a lot to say about the disgust that I would feel towards him, not only for committing the murders but also allegedly for interfering with my siblings, as was also claimed.   However David has only glowing testimony for his father, and expressed it in an emotional framework that is no different to that which surrounds his recollection of other family members.  David's consistent approach is to plead his innocence, allow Joe Karam to make accusations against his father, none of which he ever corroborates, and for him to continually praise his father.  It simply does not make sense.  In addition to the content, the sincerity of the speech is consistently hampered by the persistent smirk on David's face.

I would have to agree with Martin Van Beynen's verdict on the case: David Bain is guilty, a conclusion that I can now only confidently assert, having seen him in action.  It is no surprise that he did not testify in the retrial.  His testimony would have convicted him for the second time.

Plenty of doubt in Bain jury's verdict

Last updated 05:00 20/06/2009



OPINION: Journalists remain impartial at a trial, but, inevitably, after hearing all the evidence and being paid to concentrate, you reach a view.
After sitting through almost every minute of the David Bain retrial, I was quite convinced Bain killed his family on June 20, 1994, by executing them with his .22 semi-automatic rifle.
I thought many of the defence arguments had been exposed as almost ludicrously implausible and its experts revealed as endorsing some very strained interpretations of the evidence.
Not that the police case was without flaws. If the police had kept samples taken from Robin Bain's hands, and also removed and retained carpet that contained a crucial bloodied footprint, the result might have been different.

David Bain's lawyers were able to argue that the police had removed an opportunity for him to prove his innocence, but the police's lack of diligence could also be seen as a great stroke of luck for Bain.
The verdict surprised me, but should not have. If the case had been put to 10 juries, I believe six would have convicted, two would have acquitted and two would have been unable to reach a decision. Bain won the lottery.

What is a little surprising is not a single person out of the 12 in this, Bain's second jury, was prepared to argue strongly for a guilty verdict when such a damning case was in front of them. The verdict after only five hours shows that little argument could have taken place.
Several aspects about this jury should worry us all. 

The two jurors - a man and a woman - who were seen to congratulate Bain after the verdicts and who went to his celebratory party were the same two who spent the last three weeks of the trial paying little attention to the evidence and closing addresses. They giggled and wrote messages to each other.
The man would often sleep through parts of the afternoon.
Initially, the woman was so disturbed by the images shown as evidence that she turned her computer screen away. By her own admission, she spent the first two weeks of the trial in tears, and the trial lost half a day because of her anguish.
Another juror, known to another member of the media covering the trial, had a serious question mark over her ability to follow the evidence. Yet another went to congratulate Bain's legal counsel after the verdict.

But such is our system and, for the meantime, we have to live with it. What we should not have to live with, without challenge, is some of the comments made after the trial.
For instance, take this comment from Bain supporter Joe Karam: "I had no doubts; no doubts since 1996. I've said, `Give us a day in court. No jury will ever convict this man. The evidence against him is nothing more than smoke and fire."'

The fact is that the Bain defence team did everything it could do to prevent the case going to a jury and, when it was, it tried to prevent the jury giving a verdict.
After Bain's convictions were quashed in 2007, the legal team went back to the Privy Council in an attempt to get a stay (stop the trial for good), and then it applied for another stay in New Zealand before the retrial. Three times during the trial, it applied for a mistrial/stay to prevent the case reaching a conclusion.

To me, no-one looked more surprised at the verdict than Bain and his legal team.
All this shows that you have to be careful about what champions of the innocent say on television. And, next time Karam maintains Bain is innocent, he should be asked why this innocent man, who had nothing to hide, decided not to give evidence.

He may have said all he needed to say, but this jury should have heard it again.
Colin Withnall, QC, argued in this paper that it was arrogant and ridiculous to assume the jury was not satisfied of Bain's guilt, rather than satisfied of his innocence. He then seemed to suggest, making his own assumption, that the presumption of innocence should return to Bain, despite what was heard in the trial.

That might be a justifiable position in theory, but in the real world people make up their minds on available information.
Withnall presses strongly for compensation for Bain. I doubt whether Bain will apply for compensation because he must be aware, even if his legal team is not, that he was extremely lucky to get the verdict he did.
As for the relatives who supposedly took his inheritance, I don't think they need to worry about a potential lawsuit either.

Many people have said to me that the verdict doesn't really matter since Bain has served 13 years in jail anyway. In a way they are right.
I don't see much point in Bain serving any more time in jail. However, we need to keep reminding ourselves that five people were killed and the character of Bain's father, Robin, has been irretrievably besmirched.

We are now going to get countless articles and books about how the innocent Bain was persecuted by a conspiracy among the authorities. I am sure a David v Goliath film is also in the offing.
That Bain faced what I regarded as an overwhelming case will be lost in the fog of legend-building and self-justification.
And we are also going to have to put up with the cult of Bain. I was not the only one struck by the cultist element prevalent among his supporters.

It is easy to see how this has developed. We have the brave, abrasive advocate, Karam, doing all the talking. Bain, always quiet and reserved and always chaperoned by Karam, who guards him from media access and questions, remains a bare canvas on which anyone can project their views about the system.

In many ways, the result is, practically speaking, a good one. At least this is the end of the matter in terms of costly legal manoeuvres.
And what has Bain achieved?

He is unlikely to get compensation. At least half of New Zealand now believes he murdered his family, whereas before they might have been prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
You might ask what makes me so certain Bain brutally killed his family in 1994 in Dunedin. For that, you have to go back to the trial evidence.

The latest revelations about the 111 call and rape-alibi evidence, which were disclosed after the trial, do not add much to the case. The danger is that the controversy over that evidence will overshadow the powerful evidence during the trial.
The reasons I am sure Bain killed his family are twofold.

The first is the incredible coincidences that we have to accept if Bain is innocent.

For instance, we have to accept, just for a start, that the following facts all have perfectly innocent explanations not connected with the death of the Bain family - Bain's clear and recent fingerprints on the murder rifle, the bruises on his face and torso, the blood of his brother on his clothes, a 20-minute delay before ringing the police after finding bodies, hearing his sister gurgling (and failing to help her), convenient changes in his story, a lens from damaged glasses (of no use to anyone else and found in his bedroom) turning up in his dead brother's room, bizarre behaviour before and after the killings, not noticing the blood all over the laundry and putting the jersey worn by the killer in the washing.
However, the best evidence relates to the implausibility of Robin Bain shooting his family and then himself. If David Bain is not the culprit, Robin had a settled night in his caravan (we know this by the amount and quality of urine in his bladder) and then got up about 5.50am, after David had left on his paper round.

Despite David admitting he hated his father and siding strongly with his mother in every dispute, he was the one Robin wanted to spare, so he had to be out of the house.
Robin removed the clothes he slept in and dressed warmly, putting on a green jersey usually worn by daughter Arawa, a beauty queen and budding teacher, of whom he was very proud.
In the caravan, he listened to the radio, which he probably switched on before getting up.
His first stop on the way to the house where his family slept was at the letterbox, where he removed the newspaper.

Once in the house, he went to David's room, where he took the rifle from the wardrobe and then looked for the key to the trigger lock. Although he scattered a few bullets around (David had more than 1000 rounds of ammunition in his wardrobe), he found the key in a pot on David's desk with ease and carefully ensured other items were left in place.
He also put on David's white dress gloves, forgetting he did not want to implicate David and also overlooking that, since he was going to end it all, it wouldn't matter much if people knew it was him, anyway.

He loaded both magazines one five-shot and the other 10-shot with hollow-nosed .22 bullets and then headed towards the bedrooms.
He shot his sleeping wife, Margaret, just above her right eye and shot Laniet, his favourite, three times once in the cheek, once in the top of the head, and once above her left ear.
By this time, he may already have shot Stephen, his 14-year-old son, who, even as a grown boy, used to sit on his knee.
Stephen, however, had woken up and grabbed the silencer on the rifle before Robin could shoot. When he did, the bullet went through Stephen's hand and tore a gouge out of his scalp.
Stephen, pumped up with adrenaline, fought for his life, but Robin, belying a frame described as cadaverous, soon had the better of the brave teenager, strangling him first with his T-shirt and, when he was incapacitated, putting a bullet through the top of his head, like he had done or was to do with Laniet.

He then went down to Arawa's room. She had got up and, as she retreated into her room, he shot her in the forehead.
By now, he was covered in blood, mainly from Stephen. Did it matter, since he was going to take his own life? It did.

He went back to the caravan, perhaps having already neatly placed his blood-spattered clothes and blood-soaked socks in the laundry basket. He did not wash his hands.
To meet his maker, he chose an old pair of light-blue tracksuit pants, an equally delapidated T-shirt, an old business shirt, a brown woollen jersey and a thick hoodie. He also donned a green knitted beanie. He put on clean socks and shoes, but no underpants.
Then, he went back to the house to take his own life.
Time was marching on.
David would soon be home from his paper round and he still had to write his message on the computer.

He turned the computer on (David must now have been nearing the house) and waited 40 seconds for the computer to bring up the page for him to write his suicide note not to explain himself but to exonerate David. "Sorry you are the only one who deserved to stay."
Then, despite executing his family in textbook style, Robin chose an extraordinarily unusual way to take his own life, placing the rifle muzzle against his left temple on a strange angle.
A shot and he was falling, spilling blood and brain matter, which somehow got on to curtains that were a long way from where his body was found.

And the spare 10-shot magazine just happened to land on its narrowest edge, right by his right hand.
Despite clutching the rifle with his unclad hands to shoot at least some members of his family and then himself, the rifle did not have a single fingerprint belonging to him, even on the steel of the silencer.
Who did it? David or Robin?
In my view, the decision wasn't that hard.
- © Fairfax NZ News

What are your thoughts?  Is David guilty or innocent?  Please leave your comment below.


Anonymous said...

What a great piece of very informative writing. I agree with what you say wholeheartedly.

Kent Parker said...

Hi, there, I appreciate your work but you really should link to rather than publish complete copies of other people's work. By this I am referring to the analysis of David Bain's speech, which you have clearly lifted from http://davidbain.counterspin.co.nz/blog/analysis-of-david-bains-speech . I would appreciate if you could rectify this situation. Thanks

Nick said...

Kent, easy my lad. The transcript is riddled with links to counterspin. If it will make you feel better I'll add your link.

Coop said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments here. How anyone can doubt David Bain committed the murders is beyond me.In James McNeish's book the police officers upon arriving at the house after Bains over acted 911 call were unsure of how to enter the house and then they report hearing a tapping on the window and were told by Bain (this in the middle of his 'collapse') that he couldn't open the door as "my dads in there". It may be just me but if he was so overcome and incapacitated how did he manage to temporarily snap out of his traumatised state in order to ensure the police knew where to go and what to do? Having done this he then returned to the collapsed, distressed prone on the floor 'victim' that the police discovered minutes later. The attending ambulance crew also all felt he was faking his distress. I honestly believe that Karam even now realises he did it but he's in toodeep to back off now. Would Bain agree to a lie detector test? Hmmmm