Twelve reasons to worry about the Bain case
(This article first appeared January 25, 2013 - Editor)
Justice Ian Binnie’s report says that we would most likely know who shot and killed David Bain’s mother, father, two sisters and brother if the police had simply followed standard police practice and done their job. We don’t know the killer because of police failure.
Justice Binnie identified the following police failings:
1. “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).” The police failed to do so for David. And for Robin Bain. That one test could well have proved decisive.
2. “Det Sgt Lodge in charge of Robin’s body not only failed to preserve possible evidence of FDR but neither he nor the pathologist saw fit to preserve the skin sample surrounding Robin’s gunshot wound, thus unleashing the debate among the experts about whether the fatal shot was close, intermediate or distant.”
3. Police watches weren’t synchronised defeating the precision timing necessary to test David Bain’s “out-of-house” alibi.
4. Police denied the pathologist entry to the crime scene for three hours, making it impossible for him to measure body core temperatures to establish more precisely the time and sequence of death of the various members of the Bain family.
5. Police failed to investigate information that Laniet had accused her father of incest and planned to expose him to the rest of the family on the weekend before the murders, despite the Detectives Manual specifically instructing police to pursue the issue of motive in their attempt to “reconstruct” the crime scene.
6. Police failed to follow up on evidence of Robin Bain’s mental instability.
7. Carpet samples subjected to the critical luminol footprint examination were not kept.
8. The DNA sample for the “blood fingerprint” analysis was found to be an “unspeakable mess”.
9. Police lost a crucial second statement by a key witness as well as an all-important timesheet.
10. Photographs taken of the crime scene were a “shambles”. The date and time function on the camera was not switched on.
11. Police destroyed crucial evidence ahead of the Bain appeal.
12. Police misled the first jury on where the lens of the spectacles was found, knowingly gave the jury the wrong time for the switching on of the computer, and did not tell the jury that they had checked a key witness’s clock and had taken a crucial second statement from her. This was critical testimony.
These are damning findings. The police response to Judge Binnie?
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall put out a press release saying he “doesn’t accept” that police made “egregious errors”. He agreed there were “some errors” but that “this is one of the most scrutinised police investigations and cases in New Zealand”.
The police denial and spin reveal the depth of the problem.
Following Justice Binnie, and the commissioner’s response, a political system determined to uphold policing standards would have seen the Prime Minister, with cabinet agreement, asking the Governor-General to sack the commissioner and establishing an international search for a police commissioner who understands the importance of proper procedure and the need to establish a professional culture within the New Zealand Police for homicide investigation.
Instead, Justice Minister Judith Collins led the counter-charge, giving both Justice Binnie and his report a good kicking even before she released his report.
The police are in safe hands. It’s just the rest of us who have to worry.