In yesterday's post I argued that the New Zealand police response to 3 News revelations pointing to Robin Bain as the killer was devious because it suggested implicitly that there were no other factors indicating that the police had bungled their investigation. To make the point I referred to an earlier post on this Blog in which I detailed former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie's finding that the police had deprived David Bain of his best hope by failing to do an adequate ballistics investigation. Today I revisit a previous post which focuses on Binnie's reference to the "amateurish behavior of the police in checking out David Bain's alibi" which he labels an "egregious" instance of “failure to take proper steps to investigate the possibility of innocence...” This is the same police force that is telling the public to disregard the recent Channel 3 News revelations. Too busy defending itself than to ensure justice for David Bain. For shame!
Harold Levy: Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.JUSTICE BINNIE'S REPORT; CHAPTER XIX: LACK OF DUE DILIGENCE: THE INVESTIGATION WAS IN IMPORTANT RESPECTS “AMATEURISH”
(i) Failure to take proper steps to ascertain the “timing” relevant to the alibi defence
560. A central clock was maintained at the Dunedin CIB and regularly checked for accuracy against Telecom time.304 The detectives had the resources ready at hand to get the time correct.
561. It was apparent once the Police had interviewed David Bain on the morning of 20 June, and heard that he had been out on his paper route from 5.45 am until about 6.45 am, that there was an alibi issue to deal with. The precise timing of his return would be a critical issue.
562. Yet various different lines of Police inquiry aimed at establishing or debunking David Bain’s “window of opportunity” were carried out by different Policemen using different watches which were not synchronised either to Telecom or to each other. This confusion has hindered all subsequent efforts to tie down the precise sequence of events.305
563. In my interview with Det. Sr Sgt Doyle in Dunedin he acknowledged that this aspect of the Police investigation was “amateurish”. Extracts from my interview with him are as follows, (although reference should be made to the transcript found at Tab E of the Book of Documents for the full context of his answers.)
Q. David Bain says that, “He looked at his watch at the corner of Heath Street and Every Street and it was 6.40,” and then at some other point he says, “it was exactly 6.40.” And so far as I can determine on the record, I can’t find that his watch was ever tested for accuracy.
A. That’s correct. (p. 23)
Q. Although it is treated as a fact. Then there’s this issue with Denise Laney and as you would remember she is the lady who was, thought she was late for her job at the rest home and her clock said 6.50 and she knew it was five minutes fast. Now that clock was tested but according to the PCA report they didn’t bother to look at the accuracy of the watch that was being used to test it?306
A. Sure. (pp. 23‐24)
564. At this point Det. Sr Sgt Doyle made reference to the fact the Police didn’t hear the washing machine running when they were searching the house:
Q. So on the computer aspect, leaving aside the washing machine for the moment, we have Detective Anderson who is assigned to deal with Mr Cox and doesn’t really seem to have much of an idea of what Cox is up to or why he is doing it ‐
A. Sure. (p. 26)
Q. … I would have thought one would set out to identify a Policeman who had some understanding of what was being examined that, given the object of the exercise was to identify time, that a person would have been picked to have a watch that, if it didn’t have a second hand, would at least demarcate itself in minutes – [This was in reference to the evidence that Det. Sgt Anderson’s watch did not have a hand to indicate seconds, and nor did it have marks for individual minutes beyond the standard five minute intervals.307]
A. Oh, I totally agree with you on that and I can’t disagree.
Q. Yes, and ‐
A. It surprised me and disappointed me that that did not occur. I would have thought that a trained detective would have had enough savvy to have taken that on board. (p. 26)
565. Det. Sr Sgt Doyle emphasized that in 1994 computers were much less common than today and that the Police work had to be viewed in that light.
Q. … you’ve got a very serious murder investigation, five dead people, and you’ve got some evidence that is either going to put David Bain in the [Every Street] house at that time, the relevant time, or possibly exclude him and the thing is conducted with what seems, on the surface to be a pretty amateurish approach.
A. Oh, I think, looking back in hindsight, that it was amateurish. I can’t disagree with that. I, I would like to think that, well I’m sure that would have been done better now if the same thing occurred today, I’d expect it to be.
Q. But don’t you think by the standards of the day that this was a pretty poor performance?
A. It would be very easy to say yes but I don’t think this is as simple as that because I think that we were dealing with a totally new arena. The fact that the initiative was even used to go and try to determine that what time the computer was turned on and that probably, I certainly know of my own knowledge of computers at that stage, it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Someone had, had brought that up and said, “Let’s try it.”
Q. But if somebody had the sense to undertake the job why wasn’t it done properly in terms of accuracy of timing? (p. 27)
A. I can’t answer that Sir. I, I agree that it should have been done better and that’s about all I can say about it. (p. 28)
566. The Joint Police/Police Complaints Authority report expressed the same concern but, as was its style, looked more to the future than to judge the past. We conclude this section by commenting that the timing of the paper round, the time the computer was turned on, and the duration of the washing
matching cycle were all very important aspects of the case. We emphasise the necessity for accurate time measurements to be kept and made in criminal investigations. (para. 132)
Comment: The amateurish behaviour of the Police in checking out the alibi seems to me an egregious instance of “failure to take proper steps to investigate the possibility of
innocence” within the terms of the Minister’s letter.
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Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.