Bain: Close contact wound

The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Princess Diana and her then boyfriend told the Bain trial today that Robin Bain’s temple wound was a close contact one.

David Bain, 37, is charged with murdering his parents and three siblings by shooting them with his .22 rifle on 20 June, 1994 in Dunedin.

The defence maintains the family was shot by David’s father Robin who, it says, then shot himself by holding the gun close to his head.

Robert Chapman, a United Kingdom Home Office forensic pathologist based in Winsor, told the High Court in Christchurch he examined photographs, slides and reports of the wounds sustained by Robin Bain and Laniet Bain.

He said the photographs were generally of poor quality.

The photograph of the wound to Robin Bain’s temple showed a large black mark which obscured the bullet entry.

The blackening around the wound was soot from the materials coming down the barrel and charring, not bullet wipe (residue from the bullet wiped on the skin) as Crown experts said.

The pathologist, who said he had worked on 2000 cases over his career including the London Tube bombings in 2005, said blood from the wound obscured the detail of the wound on the photographs but small splits could be seen on the edge of the entry wound.

Radial splitting and the blackening on the wound showed the wound was a contact or near contact wound.

Spots said to be powder abrasions around Robin’s head wound, and said to signify a distant shot, were skin defects, he said.

He said he did not believe the site of Robin Bain’s left temple head wound was unusual for suicide cases.


In cross examination by Kieran Raftery, Chapman said Laniet’s cheek wound was potentially survivable but the shots to her brain would have killed her.

The two bullets fired into Laniet’s brain would have been fatal. The question was how long it would have taken for her to die, he said.

It was possible for the cheek wound to have been the last wound but if it was the first it was impossible to say how long before the brain injuries would have been fatal. It was minutes not hours.

Laniet could have moved after being shot in the cheek and those movements could have been unconscious movements.

Chapman earlier said the cheek wound sustained by Laniet was in his view not a close contact wound.

Crown experts say the wound was caused by the rifle being held against the cheek and have used the evidence to say Robin’s wound was different and therefore not a close contact wound.

He said the photograph of the wound was difficult to interpret but there was evidence of power abrasions around the wound which was indicative of Laniet being shot from a distance.

He agreed with the examining pathologist Alex Dempster who also believed the wound was an intermediate wound not a close contact one. His review also led to his view that the Crown expert who said Laniet was shot first in the cheek was not necessarily correct, he said.

The mucus and blood in Laniet’s airways indicated Laniet survived for minutes after being shot. There could be surprising periods of survival after what looked like fatal wounds to the brain, he said.

It was possible Laniet had survived some minutes to make gurgling noises after being shot three times. The survival period was variable.

David Bain said he heard Laniet “gurgling’’ which the Crown argues shows he must have delivered the final shots which killed Laniet Bain. He could not exclude a dead body making a gurgling noise, Chapman said.

If Laniet had attempted to breathe with mucus and blood in her airway a noise like gurgling would be made. Describing the sound as snoring would be more accurate.

“Groaning sounds muffled by what sounded like water’’ could not be excluded as a possible description but he did not understand them.

These were the words used by David Bain to describe the sound, the trial has already said.

His practice and the practice in Britain was to retain blood samples for many years, up to 30, he said.

A few samples in the Bain case were destroyed in 1996.

The examining pathologist was in the best position to make conclusions about wounds, Chapman said.


David Bain was upbeat and looking to the future before the death of his family, the High Court was told earlier.

Wallace Chapman, a broadcaster from Ponsonby, said he knew David Bain in 1994 through a Summer Shakespeare production in Dunedin.

He got to know David Bain very well and found him one of the more friendly, social people in the production's group.

Shortly before the killings he had contact with David Bain about a CD recording of the production.

On the Thursday evening before the killings, they talked on the phone about his future, his girlfriend and he was very upbeat.

On the Friday evening before the killings, the CD was recorded over several hours and afterwards they went for coffee in Moray Place, Dunedin.

They had planned to have dinner in the week following the killings and go to the gym together.