Martin van Beynen on Bain verdict

I was fascinated to read this article in The Press by Martin van Beynen. He sat through the entire Bain trial, as a reporter. He starts off saying:

After sitting through almost every minute of the David Bain retrial, I was quite convinced Bain killed his family on June 20, 1994, by executing them with his .22 semi-automatic rifle.

And further:

I thought many of the defence arguments had been exposed as almost ludicrously implausible and its experts revealed as endorsing some very strained interpretations of the evidence.

I’m glad he shared his views. He notes:

Not that the police case was without flaws. If the police had kept samples taken from Robin Bain’s hands, and also removed and retained carpet that contained a crucial bloodied footprint, the result might have been different.

David Bain’s lawyers were able to argue that the police had removed an opportunity for him to prove his innocence, but the police’s lack of diligence could also be seen as a great stroke of luck for Bain.

I said something similiar – that David Bain should thank the Police as their errors did help his case.

Several aspects about this jury should worry us all.

The two jurors a man and a woman who were seen to congratulate Bain after the verdicts and who went to his celebratory party were the same two who spent the last three weeks of the trial paying little attention to the evidence and closing addresses. They giggled and wrote messages to each other.

The man would often sleep through parts of the afternoon.


Initially, the woman was so disturbed by the images shown as evidence that she turned her computer screen away. By her own admission, she spent the first two weeks of the trial in tears, and the trial lost half a day because of her anguish.

Was she capable of emotional detachment in assessing the evidence?

Withnall presses strongly for compensation for Bain. I doubt whether Bain will apply for compensation because he must be aware, even if his legal team is not, that he was extremely lucky to get the verdict he did.

I hope he does apply for compensation, so a QC can advise on balance of probabilities if he is innocent or not.

Many people have said to me that the verdict doesn’t really matter since Bain has served 13 years in jail anyway. In a way they are right.

I don’t see much point in Bain serving any more time in jail. However, we need to keep reminding ourselves that five people were killed and the character of Bain’s father, Robin, has been irretrievably besmirched.

We are now going to get countless articles and books about how the innocent Bain was persecuted by a conspiracy among the authorities. I am sure a David v Goliath film is also in the offing.

That Bain faced what I regarded as an overwhelming case will be lost in the fog of legend-building and self-justification.

This is one reason I also keep covering the issue.

You might ask what makes me so certain Bain brutally killed his family in 1994 in Dunedin. For that, you have to go back to the trial evidence.

The reasons I am sure Bain killed his family are twofold.

The first is the incredible coincidences that we have to accept if Bain is innocent.

For instance, we have to accept, just for a start, that the following facts all have perfectly innocent explanations not connected with the death of the Bain family Bain’s clear and recent fingerprints on the murder rifle, the bruises on his face and torso, the blood of his brother on his clothes, a 20-minute delay before ringing the police after finding bodies, hearing his sister gurgling (and failing to help her), convenient changes in his story, a lens from damaged glasses (of no use to anyone else and found in his bedroom) turning up in his dead brother’s room, bizarre behaviour before and after the killings, not noticing the blood all over the laundry and putting the jersey worn by the killer in the washing.

Exactly – the series of “coincidences” was enormous. And then van Beynen looks at the Robin did it theory:

However, the best evidence relates to the implausibility of Robin Bain shooting his family and then himself. If David Bain is not the culprit, Robin had a settled night in his caravan (we know this by the amount and quality of urine in his bladder) and then got up about 5.50am, after David had left on his paper round.

Despite David admitting he hated his father and siding strongly with his mother in every dispute, he was the one Robin wanted to spare, so he had to be out of the house. …

In the caravan, he listened to the radio, which he probably switched on before getting up.

His first stop on the way to the house where his family slept was at the letterbox, where he removed the newspaper.

Once in the house, he went to David’s room, where he took the rifle from the wardrobe and then looked for the key to the trigger lock. Although he scattered a few bullets around (David had more than 1000 rounds of ammunition in his wardrobe), he found the key in a pot on David’s desk with ease and carefully ensured other items were left in place.

He also put on David’s white dress gloves, forgetting he did not want to implicate David and also overlooking that, since he was going to end it all, it wouldn’t matter much if people knew it was him, anyway. …

Stephen, pumped up with adrenaline, fought for his life, but Robin, belying a frame described as cadaverous, soon had the better of the brave teenager, strangling him first with his T-shirt and, when he was incapacitated, putting a bullet through the top of his head, like he had done or was to do with Laniet. …

He went back to the caravan, perhaps having already neatly placed his blood-spattered clothes and blood-soaked socks in the laundry basket. He did not wash his hands.

To meet his maker, he chose an old pair of light-blue tracksuit pants, an equally delapidated T-shirt, an old business shirt, a brown woollen jersey and a thick hoodie. He also donned a green knitted beanie. He put on clean socks and shoes, but no underpants.

Then, he went back to the house to take his own life.

Time was marching on.

David would soon be home from his paper round and he still had to write his message on the computer.

He turned the computer on (David must now have been nearing the house) and waited 40 seconds for the computer to bring up the page for him to write his suicide note not to explain himself but to exonerate David. “Sorry you are the only one who deserved to stay.”

Then, despite executing his family in textbook style, Robin chose an extraordinarily unusual way to take his own life, placing the rifle muzzle against his left temple on a strange angle.

A shot and he was falling, spilling blood and brain matter, which somehow got on to curtains that were a long way from where his body was found.

And the spare 10-shot magazine just happened to land on its narrowest edge, right by his right hand.

Despite clutching the rifle with his unclad hands to shoot at least some members of his family and then himself, the rifle did not have a single fingerprint belonging to him, even on the steel of the silencer.

Who did it? David or Robin?

In my view, the decision wasn’t that hard.

What a great article. And remember van Beynen actually heard all the evidence.

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