Tuesday, December 18, 2012

(4 of 7). David Bain. N.Z. Publisher's view; Time to take a closer look at content of Justice Binnie's report. Depriving David Bain of his "best hope." Police failure to test both Robin's body and David Bain promptly for firearms discharge.

PUBLISHER'S VIEW:  Much of the reporting following the release of Justice Ian Binnie's report recommending compensation for David Bain has focussed on the political implications of the report - as opposed to its content. The content is, however,  of prime interest to this Blog because of Justice Binnie's focus on "the failure to test both Robin's body and David promptly for firearm discharge investigation.  Justice Binnie says that this failure deprived David Bain of his "best hope" of establishing Robin to be the murderer. This failure to conduct "absolutely basic police work," added to the many other police failures identified by Justice Binnie,  illustrates the crying need for New Zealand to compensate David Bain  - as Justice Binnie recommends - for his lengthy  ordeal.

Harold Levy:  Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.


CONTEXT: Wikipedia: "Killings and first trial: " By 1994 Robin and Margaret were estranged and Robin was sleeping in the back of his van at Taieri or in the schoolhouse. David Bain and the rest of the family lived at 65 Every Street, Andersons Bay, Dunedin. Robin returned to the family home at the weekends and slept in a caravan in the back garden. Robin was said to be in an incestuous relationship with his daughter Laniet that began when the family were in Papua New Guinea, and was still going on. Fellow teachers later described him as "deeply depressed, to the point of impairing his ability to do his job of teaching children".  On the morning of 20 June 1994, David Bain called 111 at 7:09 am in an apparently distressed state and told the operator: "They're all dead, they're all dead." When the police arrived at Every Street they found five members of the Bain family had been shot – Robin Bain (the father aged 58), his wife Margaret, their daughters Arawa (19), Laniet (18) and son Stephen (14). Four days later, David Bain, then aged 22, was charged with the murder of all five members of his family. On 5 July 1994, the house was burnt down by the New Zealand Fire Service, at the request of the trustees of the Bain family trust. At his trial the prosecution claimed that David killed his entire family after completing his early morning paper round– though no motive or explanation as to why David might want to kill them was provided. The lack of motive confused the presiding judge who in his summing up said the Crown had told the jury "... that these events were so bizarre and abnormal that it was impossible for the human mind to conceive of any logical  or reasonable explanation". One piece of evidence was a message found typed on the family computer that read: "sorry, you are the only one who deserved to stay". The defence used this to put forward the proposition that David’s father, Robin Bain, had killed the others while David was out on his paper run – and then committed suicide. After a three week trial David Bain was convicted by the jury on five counts of murder and sentenced by Justice Williamson to life imprisonment with a 16 year non-parole period.

The entire Wikipedia page can be found at: 


 (iii) Failure to test both Robin’s body and David promptly for firearm discharge residue

529. It is absolutely basic Police work in a firearms case, as laid out in the Detectives Manual to preserve and test samples from a suspect’s hands and clothing for firearms discharge residue (FDR). This will indicate if a person has recently fired a firearm. As explained in the Joint Police/Police Complaints Authority Report (1997), the test involves “checking suspects for discharge residue blown back on to [mainly] the hand[s] which held the weapon. It is to be expected in ideal conditions that minute particles could still be found on a live and active person up to two/three hours after shooting occurred – provided the firer has not washed since. On a dead body, the dust could remain much longer because it is only lost through movement.”

530. The Police say they did not test David Bain the morning of 20 June because he said he washed his hands to remove newsprint ink. This is curious. It must be rare for the Police not to do a test because the individual concerned assures them that nothing of interest to the prosecution will be found.

531. If the test had been done quickly on David and proved negative, it might have been of marginal assistance to establish his innocence. On the other hand, if FDR were found on Robin’s hands, it would be an important indicator of suicide and would have been of great importance to the defence. On the prosecution theory there would be no FDR on Robin’s hands.

532. Det. Sr Sgt Doyle was asked why Police had not checked David’s hands for firearms residue after locating him in his room at 65 Every Street. He suggested it would have been “insensitive” to do the test as David was then considered a victim.290 Yet by 11.00 am or so, David Bain was at the Police station being strip searched and tested for FDR by Dr Pryde, who found nothing positive.

 533. Although Robin’s body had been properly wrapped in plastic when removed to the mortuary, his hands were not separately bagged as required by the Detective Manual and the plastic sheeting (which might have collected any residue shaken loose in transit) was thrown away. The Joint Police/Police Complaints Authority Report (1997) was critical of this investigative failure:

“Again, with the benefit of hindsight, we find that earlier consideration should have been given to preserving Robin’s hands and clothing for firearm residue testing. At the very least his hands and lower arms should have been enclosed in plastic/paper bags at the earlier opportunity. Those containers should have been subsequently examined for residue as should the upper outer clothing of David and Robin. (para 142)

534. I do not accept that this was only clear “with the benefit of hindsight.” The procedure was specifically laid down in the Detective Manual. Det. Sr Sgt Doyle accepted that this breach of standard procedure was a Police responsibility. A. Yes, yes, Detective Lodge. Detective Lodge had that responsibility and he’s an experienced detective, he should have, he should have done that.291

Comment: the Bain complaint is justified. Firearms Discharge Residue was perhaps David Bain’s best hope of establishing Robin to be the murderer. Of course, the presence of FDR on David might have been similarly helpful to the prosecution. The Crown Law Office says it is impossible to say what the results of such tests would have been. This is true, but it was the failure of the Police to do such basic tests in breach of the Detective Manual that created this unsatisfactory situation.

Justice Binnie's full report can be found through the following link:



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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:


Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:


Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.