The David Bain story captured public attention in New Zealand for 22 years – ever since he returned home from his paper run on 20 June 1994 and called the police reporting that both his parents and his three younger siblings had all been shot to death.
Who did it?
David was accused of the killings and was tried twice – in 1995 and 2009 – before finally being found not guilty. At both trials, the Crown argued that he shot and killed his mother and three siblings, went on his paper run (which took about an hour) and then shot his father when he got back.
After the not guilty verdict at the second trial, retired Canadian Judge, Ian Binnie, was appointed to investigate David’s compensation claim for wrongful conviction. Binnie described this police theory as ‘inherently implausible’ – because David’s father, Robin Bain, used to sleep in a caravan in the back garden and could have come into the house while David was out on his paper run. He would have discovered the carnage and called the police. After a 12 month investigation, Judge Binnie went on to say that the police had made egregious errors in their investigation and had prosecuted David even though ‘no plausible motive ever emerged’. His views reflected those of the judge at the first trial (in 1995) who, after David was found guilty, said:
“… that these events were so bizarre and abnormal that it was impossible for the human mind to conceive of any logical or reasonable explanation”
There is a compelling explanation…
As we now know, the judge and jury at the first trial did not have all the facts. But during the next fifteen years, as Joe Karam kicked the case up the field of Appeal all the way to the Privy Council, new witnesses came forward. David’s legal team learned that his parents had been estranged for years and that prior to the killings, his father had been very depressed. They also heard allegations that Robin Bain had been having an incestuous relationship with his youngest daughter, Laniet.
A number of people testified that prior to her death, Laniet had told them what her father was doing to her; one witness said “the whole neighbourhood knew about the incest accusation;” others said she was threatening to tell the rest of her family. In other words, Robin Bain was in the process of being exposed by Laniet’s disclosures and the game was nearly up. Ashamed of his depraved behaviour and his failed marriage; and fearful that he might spend the rest of his life in prison, Robin finally snapped. He wiped out everyone in the family except David, and then committed suicide.
This is a credible explanation of what probably happened. It emerged slowly and took years of hard work and dogged determination by Joe Karam, who wrote four books about the case. In 2007 the Privy Council listened to this new evidence and declared a ‘substantial miscarriage of justice’ had occurred. The jury at the retrial also listened and in 2009, David was finally found not guilty. Robin Bain was the only other suspect and the testimony of numerous witnesses, who came forward after the first trial, all pointed the finger of blame at him.
Research on familicide
When someone kills two or more members of their own family, the term used to describe this is familicide. Such crimes are rare. But when they do occur, 95% of the time the father is the perpetrator. Although it is hard to understand why anyone would want to kill their entire family, such perpetrators have usually experienced an overwhelming sense of failure in their business or personal lives and/or have deep seated feelings of shame and depression. Robin Bain’s marriage had failed years earlier and he was living in a caravan in a state of squalor. Teaching colleagues testified that prior to the killings, he was so depressed, he had ‘lost touch with reality’.
Research on familicide describes two types of killers: they are either ‘angry’ or ‘despairing’. The way in which this research points directly at Robin Bain is covered here. It describes the psychological impact on a ‘despairing’ type of perpetrator when a prolonged build up of shame combines with a potential ‘triggering event’ – such as public disclosure.
The compensation controversy
After he was found not guilty at the second trial, David requested compensation for wrongful conviction and the 13 wasted years in prison. Justice Minister, Simon Power, appointed retired Canadian Judge, Ian Binnie, to examine David’s claim. By the time Binnie finished his report, Judith Collins was the Minister of Justice. Collins was probably the worst Justice and Corrections Minister New Zealand has ever had. She rejected Binnie’s report and made an absolute mockery of the justice system in the process. Read the full story here.
Collins eventually resigned after her involvement in the Oravida and Dirty Politics scandals. Six years after David was found not guilty, a new Justice Minister, Amy Adams, appointed Australian judge, Ian Callinan, to write yet another report. Observers pointed out that the Government seemed to be cherry-picking – looking for a judge who was willing to give them the result they wanted. Callinan fitted the bill. Read about his dodgy ethics and controversial appointment as a judge in Australia here.
Who won the compensation battle?
The compensation controversy is covered in detail here. In the end the Government gave David $925,000 but no apology and said the payment wasn’t compensation.
Former ACT Party leader, Rodney Hide called the Government’s decision A $1 million betrayal of justice and said:
“The best that can be said is the long saga is over. The warring sides have packed it in, without a winner or a loser, too exhausted to fight on. And there’s the problem. The Government should never have gone to war.”