Police investigation in Bain case challenged

RETRIAL: David Bain in court.
RETRIAL: David Bain in court.

The detective in charge of the Bain murder investigation has been forced to answer defence allegations the investigation was incompetent and biased against David Bain.

The police investigation came under intense scrutiny in the High Court in Christchurch yesterday, with James Doyle, the officer effectively in charge of the case in 1994 and who was then a detective senior sergeant, in the witness box for most of the day.

Doyle, who has since left the police, will continue being cross-examined today.

David Cullen Bain, 36, is charged with fatally shooting his parents, Robin, 58, and Margaret, 50, and his siblings, Arawa, 19, Laniet, 18, and Stephen 14, early on June 20, 1994. He has denied the charges.

Bain's lead counsel, Michael Reed, QC, took Doyle through a broad range of issues asking why certain actions were taken or not taken.

Doyle said incest claims against Robin Bain were appropriately investigated, despite few inquiries being made before David Bain's arrest on June 25, 1994.

It emerged yesterday the police had heard as early as the second day of the inquiry from two sources a neighbour and Laniet's friend Dean Cottle that Laniet had been accusing her father of incest.

Doyle said he could not remember the neighbour saying the whole neighbourhood knew about the incest accusation but he remembered Cottle's statement being taken.

Asked about further inquiries, he told Reed the inquiry was a homicide inquiry, not an incest one.

That Laniet worked as a prostitute did not ring "huge"alarm bells, he said. All families had their secrets.

Doyle said he could see no motive for Robin Bain to have killed his family.

It was not a line of inquiry he wanted to pursue at the time because the inquiry was focused on the killings.

Reed also put it to Doyle that evidence kept from the jury in David Bain's first trial meant his client was denied a three-minute alibi.

Doyle admitted he knew about an error in the police evidence relating to the time the computer in the Bain house was turned on it was used by the killer to write a message but did not appreciate its significance and did nothing about it.

He could not comment on a second statement by a witness which would have put Bain three minutes from the house when the message was written.

The statement was not put to the jury.

In further cross-examination by Reed, the former detective agreed his officers had failed to take gunshot residue tests of either Robin's or David's hands and arms in the time period required. Doyle agreed an accurate time-base clock was not properly established but that was not part of routine police inquiries in 1994.

He accepted that although the police manual talked about wrapping bodies in plastic and ensuring hands and feet were wrapped as well, that was not done in Robin Bain's case.

"Once again you see when it comes to Robin and the ability of the police or the defence to evaluate whether Robin was the killer, each time either the evidence is thrown away, it's lost or destroyed. Why is it always with Robin? This happens because you just didn't bother, did you?" Reed said.

"We have a one-sided investigation."

Doyle agreed that if skin around the head wounds of Robin Bain had been properly preserved, a major dispute in the current trial could have been avoided. Carpet on which bloody footprints were found should also have been cut out but was not.

A large number of people Reed claimed 17 separate movements into the house had entered the crime scene before evidence was recorded by video camera but many of these visitors had stayed at the edge of the various crime scenes, Doyle said.

In recent years, he had learned Robin Bain had published on the Thursday before the killings what Reed called "horrific stories" written by his eight and nine-year-old pupils, but he could not comment on them.

He denied he destroyed samples that could have exonerated David Bain.

The samples were scrapings from underneath Robin Bain's fingernails, a smear of blood on Robin Bain's left hand and skin samples from Robin Bain's hands. They were destroyed on January 26, 1996.

If the samples were from any of the Bain children murdered, David Bain would have been able to prove he was innocent, Reed told Doyle.

Doyle denied this, but Reed told him that if Robin Bain had been shot by David Bain it was very difficult to see how he could have the blood of the murdered children on him since Robin, according to the Crown, had not moved around the house.

The Press