5 Jun 2009

Bain found not guilty of murder

10:58 pm on 5 June 2009

David Bain is a free man after a High Court jury on Friday found him not guilty of the murders of five of his family members.

The retrial of Mr Bain in Christchurch had run for 13 weeks, having been ordered by the Privy Council in 2007 when it quashed his original convictions. He has spent 13 years in jail.

The Crown argued that Mr Bain, 37, murdered his father Robin, mother Margaret, brother Stephen and sisters Arawa and Laniet in their Dunedin home on 20 June 1994.

The defence contended that Robin Bain killed the family members present in the house before using David Bain's rifle to shoot himself.

Outside court, an emotional David Bain on Friday afternoon thanked his long-time supporter Joe Karam and others who stood by him.

"All I can say is that without Joe and his solid strength, without the love of the people that have supported me since day one, I wouldn't have made it through this far. Joe has just been there through everything for me."

Mr Karam told the crowd he never doubted that David Bain would be cleared.

"We were forced to embark upon what, no doubt, will go down as the criminal trial of New Zealand's history. You people have had a lot to do with it.

"It's often been testy and tetchy. But what has really mattered is that the truth, as I said 13 years ago, has finally fallen where it has always been."

Mr Karam said the actions of unnamed authorities perpetuated the case unnecessarily, though he would not give details. His comments follow criticism of some officers in the case during the retrial.

The head of Mr Bain's legal team, Michael Reed, QC, said the case against his client was "ridiculous" and should never have gone to a retrial.

Justice Minister Simon Power said he would look at any issue of compensation for Mr Bain with an open mind.

Quick verdict

The jury retired at 4.28pm on Thursday, but was recalled by Justice Panckhurst within the hour to clarify issues raised by counsel.

On Friday morning, jurors returned to court to ask two questions of the judge, before beginning their deliberations.

Jurors were sequestered until they reached their unanimous verdict at 4.25pm on Friday. The panel of seven women and five men took five hours and 50 minutes to reach their decision.

The courtroom erupted with cheers and applause when the verdict was read out.

Justice Panckhurst then told David Bain he may leave the dock and thanked the jurors for their efforts, saying their punctuality, patience and perseverance had been "quite outstanding".

In summing up the evidence on Thursday, Justice Panckhurst told the jury not to allow emotions to interfere with the "formidable" task it had in considering the evidence from 184 witnesses.

The judge said his predecessor, Justice Williamson, posed the question when beginning his summing up in the 1995 trial - "Was it Robin or was it David?"

That question, Justice Panckhurst said, captured the ultimate issue in the case.

Police defend prosecution

Police said they are disappointed with the outcome, but believe they put the best evidence they could before the court.

A spokesperson, Detective Superintendent Malcolm Burgess, said police maintain that prosecuting David Bain was the right decision and refused to accept that the Crown's case was inadequate.

"Whilst disappointed, we accept the jury's outcome. We believe we put the best possible evidence before the court. Obviously, it wasn't sufficient to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt."

Mr Burgess said the investigation was sound and impartial, and he did not accept criticism of the police.

Result should end speculation - lawyer

A lawyer in David Bain's first trial, Michael Guest, said Friday's verdict should end speculation about whether Mr Bain is innocent.

Mr Guest told Checkpoint he always believed Mr Bain would finally be cleared of the murder charges, and the not guilty verdict means Mr Bain must now be presumed innocent for the rest of his life.

"He has been found not guilty after all this time by a jury that considered a hell of a lot of evidence - and he's entitled to that finding. The only opinion which matters is the opinion uttered by the foreman of the jury - not guilty. Let it rest, let it be."

However, Mr Guest said there is "no chance" David Bain would get compensation, as he cannot prove that he did not commit the crimes.