Looking back on
Murders are a stock-in-trade for many jobbing journalists. We follow them from the actual killing to the trial and then to the sentencing if the offender is found guilty.
During a stint as court reporter in my early days at The Press newspaper I covered a number of major trials but nothing of the scale of the Bain case.
When the Bain murders happened in June 1994, in
Dunedin, I was living in Christchurch having left Dunedin about four years earlier after a stint at the Otago Daily Times.
I can’t remember my reaction to the Bain murders but it was probably that of most shocked New Zealanders.
I began writing about the shootings in 1997 after the release of Joe Karam’s book David and Goliath, which I found quite a convincing read.
But I knew some of the reporters who covered David Bain’s first trial who thought Bain was obviously guilty so I was sceptical about a lot of Karam’s rather dogmatic pronouncements.
I wrote reviews of Karam’s book and also of a book called The Mask of Sanity by the late renowned New Zealand author James McNeish who attended Bain’s first trial.
That sort of made me the Bain case reporter for The Press and I kept a loose watch on it until 2009, when I was assigned to cover Bain’s second trial in Christchurch.
We had been promised new defence evidence that would essentially blow the Crown case out of the water and I was genuinely ready to be convinced.
After the trial I wrote an opinion piece explaining why I thought David’s claims of innocence were not supported by the evidence and why he was probably guilty.
The article stimulated a lot of debate and appeared to have been widely read, judging by the feedback. It also meant that I had, by disparaging the jury verdict, nailed my colours to the mast.
Despite the books already written about the case, I thought it certainly deserved another, if only to update the public on the latest developments and evidence. The second trial’s transcript was well over 3000 pages while the first trial had only 500.
I hoped to write a fuller account than those written by David Bain’s advocate Joe Karam, which I regard as being mainly about the defence position.
I thought I was in a pretty good position to write a book about the case.
As mentioned, I covered all of the retrial.
As David Bain said in a New Idea magazine article after the trial: ‘‘If anyone can pass judgment ,it can only be those who sat through the whole trial.’’