TV3 show claims 'game-changer' evidence in the Bain case

David Bain (left) and long-time supporter Joe Karam (Photo: TV3 News)

LATEST: Bain case: police reject latest Karam thumbprint claims

For the past 19 years, despite two trials and a Privy Council ruling, debate has continued to rage about whether David Bain shot his family, or whether his father Robin committed the murders before shooting himself.

On TV3's 3rd Degree programme, reporter Melanie Reid showed that Robin Bain's finger and thumb, photographed at the crime scene, had marks which looked remarkably like the gunpowder deposits left after loading a .22 rifle. The photo was one of 2500 taken at the scene.

David Bain's lawyer, Michael Reed QC, says the evidence the evidence proves his client is innocent, and that the government should pay compensation.

Ms Reid herself loaded and tested .22 rifles with the same sort of operating systems as the murder weapon and using the same ammunition. She found marks on her thumb, two grey parallel lines very similar to those seen in the police photos of Robin Bain. 

3rd degree also showed footage of David Bain's defence team testing, under police supervision, the actual murder weapon, a Winchester 490 .22 semi-automatic.  The members of the team who fired the gun also found lines of gunpowder residue on their thumbs.

On the TV3 show, two gun experts testified that the marks on Robin Bain's were instantly recognisable as having come from loading a rifle.

One of them, gun-shop owner and marksman Richard Munt, said gunpowder deposits only remain on the skin for a few minutes, so they could not have been caused by Robin Bain using the rifle the previous day.

"He would have to have been shooting a rabbit a minute or two before he was found, and that was unlikely."

Exact match
Forensic photographer Peter Durrant and gunsmith Robbie Tiffin both measured the Robin Bain marks and found they matched exactly the lips of the murder weapon's magazine.

Ms Reid explained that 3rd Degree had also shown the photographs to an international weapons specialist with almost 20 years' experience as leader of a tactical firearms unit of the UK police.

He has testified: "In my expert opinion the marks seen on the finger and thumb, in the photograph, are consistent with loading and unloading a .22 magazine which has carbon deposits upon it."

The marks were first spotted by David Giles, an eagle-eyed Waikato businessman with no previous connection to the Bain case.

Mr Giles said: "Anyone who has handled guns would probably recognise marks like that."

Ms Reid told 3rd Degree presenters Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner that in her view the evidence was a game-changer.

Watch the episode here.


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43 Comments & Questions

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Still problematic: the expert said 'consistent with' which means that there are other possibilites which the interviewers didn't examine, e.g. the police or someone familiar with that weapon placing the cartridge in his hand to clinch the case against him. It seemed to be his right hand, interesting given that he was shot from the left. I suppose he wasn't wearing opera gloves for that final shot, but he must have had to reload the gun for that final shot (nothing said about this in the programme) because he would have taken the gloves off to use the computer and to have that final shower to clean himself up before meeting his maker.

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all with a full bladder and having checked the letterbox first if my memory serves me.

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Quite damning evidence , really . This won't go down well at Whaleoil .

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It's also interesting that if you take a clip and press it against a thumb or hand it leaves the same residue. Is it conceivable that the killer, in an attempt to make it look like suicide, removed the clip and pressed it against Robin's thumb?

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It is inconceivable the accused killer would then not raise that "evidence" at trial.

You are truly grasping at straws.

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Close attention to all of the evidence is likely to show this is an "own goal". The residue is easily wiped off, especially by gripping an object like a gun, and is said to only last minutes. Unlikely, therefore to have occured while reloading during the murders. The marks must have been made just before death. There is a magazine that could have caused the marks within inches of where those fingers came to rest. It is a reasonable inference that Robin was holding the magazine at the time of death. Those marks can be made by unloading a magazine. All of this is inconsistent with suicide. At the very least, therefore, these marks point to David having murdered his father.

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Truly bizarre. Is there no end to those determined not to see evidence of David's innocence? I started off agnostic on this case but skeptical of David's motive compared with Robin's.

How on earth would Robin have been unloading the gun that had shot the rest of his family and was about to shoot him?

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The problem Alan is that everyone thinks in black and white. Either it was David or Robin. All the evidence we are told about has snags whether it was David or Robin. The evidence has always had a better fit if you entertain the idea that Robin shot his family and David shot his father. It explains so many things, and also explains his actions after the event.

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Dead right Alan... I always thought that David was the killer. I must eat humble pie, that evidence is a slam dunk. It is common practice for Police to check for gun powder residue when draggng in suspects for firearms offences...boy did they mess this one up.

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I totally agree , 'so did Robin Bain load the gun , getting the marks on his hand , then shoot himself with a long rifle all the time holding on to the spare cartridge , or load the gun, drop the spare cartridge on the ground , shoot himself , then fall down so his hand fell exactly where the cartridge was lying , and yes , how after shooting yourself does the supposed residue stay on your hands ( cause apparently it doesn't stay on your hands very long)

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The carbon residue will stay on the fingers so long as they are not physically contacting other things - carbon residue doesn't vapourise and disappear on its own

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Compelling viewing but I like Chris' view...Interesting how one narrow TV show opens the door to other theories...Could David have been Robin's next victim, but won the struggle???Could David and Robin have been in it together, but something went wrong??? Could David have shot Robin after surprising him shooting the others??? Could David have staged Robin's suicide??? Will Melanie "Miss Marple" Reid answer these and other vexing questions???

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What about fingerprints on mag, bullet shell and gun? Lots of unanswered questions. Fingerprints disappeared??

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TV3 doesn't give a balanced view. You could easily twist this new evidence to make a case against David. In the photo the magazine was on its edge on carpet. What are the chances of a narrow magazine landing on its edge happening if it wasn't placed there. So why didn't TV3 try placing the magazine in a hand and then remove it as the murderer may have done before deciding to place the magazine on its edge beside the hand. The dusty residue that TV3 proved easily marks may have left marks with this action. But if they had done this there wouldn't have been a story.

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The point has already been made above. If David was such a criminal genius that he placed the magazine and residue to implicate Robin, why did he not bring it up in his defence at his two murder trials? Why didn't he talk about it for the last 19 years? Why did he wait for some random Waikato business man to discover it on the internet, which wasn't invented in 1994? Was that all part of the plan too?

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Because, like everyone else, he hadn't noticed the (supposed) gun residue. Hard not to agree with Andrew. TV3 not exactly known for their balanced approach

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David hasn't spoken to anyone in 19 years...why not give us the simple believable explanation of an innocent man without the hindrance of his litigious watchdog.

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Hello. The lines are not parallel if you measure the gap further up on robin's thunb the gap becomes to small. Plus I do not believe 3rd degree even have their red line on the correct angle. The red line has to be at a 90 degree angle to the marks on Robin's thumb. If you go off the top mark their line is well off 90 degrees.

Pretty easy to come up with 'game changer' evidence when you manipulate evidence.

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When loading .22 bullets into a magazine you slide your finger or thumb over the top of the magazine as shown on TV3 last night, but to load about 25 bullets and expect to have a perfect pair of tramlines across one's thumb is dreaming. I have loaded thousands and even after 10 you have more of a smudge as the pressure you have to apply makes quite an indent in your skin so leaves a wider line than shown and also it would be inconceivable to slide ones thumb in exactly the same place so many times.

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But it seems likely that Robin knew he only needed to load one bullet. His last?

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Clearly not, as there is still at least one unfired round clearly visible in the magazine on the floor. Would he conceivably load multiple rounds in the magazine for his 'last' shot?

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There were supposedly 19 rounds. 10 in one magazine and 5 in the other so a reloading of at least 4 bullets would have been required.

Why was there only one set of track marks?

If the marks were easily removed why were the ones shown not smudged from the other loading?

3rd degree needed to do more investigation to be credible on this one rather than going for sensationalism.

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There appears to be a compelling argument for there being reasonable doubt, in light to this latest development, irrespective of the style of presentation
All the various alternative scenarios which suggest David's involvement are quite different from the charge of which he was convicted.
At the very least, there are factors now being discovered which establishes that there is reasonable doubt, in my humble opimion.

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Not really evidence that would stand up in a court of law, is it? And a nice reminder of the magazine balanced on its side - miraculously.

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If it had been found on David's hand do you really think the prosecution would not have presented it as the "smoking gun"?

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Actually it's exactly what evidence tends to be when it's tabled in court - photographic coverage from the crime scene and expert opinion.

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Does anyone know how the NZ Herald's senior reporter of the year David Fisher got on to the story and got it online so quickly after it showed on television? And then get it all over the paper's front page at a time of night the Herald might usually have gone to bed? Could some behind-the-scenes deal have been jacked up between Joe Karam, Michael Reed, Melanie Reid and Mr Fisher? Who approached who? Was money involved? Could Mr Fisher just have been lucky? What will happen to thousands of now-redundant police officers? Will Duncan and Guyon tell us?

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Some of the comments on here are unbelievable.
Obviously in this country it is impossible to prove someone is guilty, in this case not guilty, thank goodness we don't have the death penalty, otherwise this guy Bain & Arthur Thomas would be dead right now.
I would have to come to the conclusion after the Scott Guy case, that there is no way that we can ever prove someone's guilt.

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This case is compelling as it's based on theories espoused by two diametrically opposed parties, those who prosecute and those who defend David Bain. I get the sense that this case is more than just finding closure and justice for the victims and where personalities are intrinsically interwoven into how we perceive the evidence. My position is this: if this evidence had been present at the trial the case for the defence would be more compelling and with the prosecution needing to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt I would wager he would be found not guilty, therefore his conviction and imprisonment was unjust and must be addressed.

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This from the PCA Report 1997 para 139.
Positive GSR on either Robin or David would not have solved the crime beyond doubt. At best it could have indicated contact with the rifle but not responsibility for firing it. David could claim he touched the rifle as he has done to explain his fingerprints on it.
GSR on Robin's hands would not exclude the possibility it was transferred from David if he moved his father's hands to make it look like suicide.

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This is about loading the magazine - not firing it, although that follows.

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One thing's for sure.

The NZ Police get it wrong, again. Whatever the meaning of this discovery, it would have been a lot more use during the initial court case.

It's hard not to agree that if the hand marks were in some way planted, then we'd all have learned about it many years ago as part of the defence.

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Mr Karam done such a great job over the last 15 years of using the media to assist with his agenda. He should work for Duco event promotions. Interesting why no close family members support David.....only someone from outside the family who obviously knew nothing about David whilst all the family were still alive.

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Having loaded tens of thousands of rounds into various weapons over the years I understand what was being grasped at. You can get marks that look like that. But a big HOWEVER there are a number of big problems with the conclusion.

Those marks could only have been from loading rounds, handling or inserting the mag into the weapon.

First the marks are on the side of the thumb. These could not have been made when loading the mag. All mags like this mag are loaded by pushing the rounds into the mag, normally with the thumb. But this could only leave marks on the soft underside of the thumb in a longitudinal fashion.

Handling also impossible, looks like the marks on the right thumb, impossible to hold a mag with your right hand and get those marks, try it.. with right or left you cannot do either

Inserting mag, you hold a mag at its base for insertion, once impossible to make those marks.

Final problem, a mag has to be pretty dirty, ie fired a lot, to make any carbon marks... but that is a minor point. It could have been dirty from previous firings.

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If an innocent, reasonably intelligent man is found guilty of murdering his entire family and he spent fourteen years behind bars for that crime, then surely he would have meticulously examined every shred of evidence down to minute detail to proclaim his innocence. That is unless he is actually guilty and he did not have the inclination to look for evidence so he could pin blame on someone else. The marks on Robin Bain’s thumb look nothing like the marks on the test photos.

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The big expose explains nothing. All that happened is someone has seen some marks on Robin's fingers but that is no evidence or proof of David's innocence at all.....in fact the most likely scenario is David put the magazine in Robin's fingers to leave residue and then stupidly placed it on its edge beside his body. The ultimate question remains unanswered by Melanie Reid, Joe Karam and David Bain - how did Robin Bain shoot himself in the head in the most awkward way possible and not leave a single fingerprint on the gun?

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The marks look like cuts to me. Hardly gunpowder deposits....

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If Robin Bain got these marks on his fingers then he was not wearing gloves....but how did he shoot himself and not leave a single fingerprint on the gun - or magazine?

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Very good analysis. If those marks were indeed carbon deposits, then Robin ought to have no gloves on and so leave his fingerprints on the gun.
Guess it shows that this is all but some ploy cooked up by David's camp. Disgusting.

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They look like scratch marks to me.
They are not parallel.
They are on the side of the thumb not the face of the thumb.
They do not look like the smudge marks from the carbon residue samples in the montage.
They are much shorter in length compared to the montage samples.
They are running in the opposite direction from the montage samples using right hand thumb loading.

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Anyone bothered to take a look at their own thumb- mine has two creases (bend your thumb and see) almost identical and if I was working with roofing iron or old lead spouting grime would deposit in the creases.

These appear clean lines -creases in the Bain photo, the reporter had smudges apart from the main lines in her demo of a reloading ...

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Everyone should read Martin van Beynen's piece on stuff concerning this. Sanity amongst the hysteria

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Have loaded 22 ammo my self and got the same marks, Question ,have the 22 shell casings been tested for fingerprints, were the clothes of Robins and Davids tested for gunpowder residue?

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