Allan Dick's Blog - Part One
Read more of Allan's blog entries by clicking here.
Read Part Two here.
The Navigator (she who sits in the passenger's seat) rushed out and joined the queues last Wednesday afternoon, certain that we would be shouting hooray when the Big Wednesday draw was made.
But all we got were two $2 wins in the scratchies she bought at the same time.
I told her that lightning never strikes the same place twice and we should save our money for more important things — like beer.
November 1960 and my parents were into their fourth year at a shop in the seaside village of Brighton near Dunedin.
At that time gambling laws were very tough. There was the state-run "Art Union" which was openly promoted, but you could also buy the Tasmanian-based Tattersalls Lottery — "Tatts" — if you knew where to look.
Tatts wasn't illegal, it just wasn't allowed to be promoted. If a shop had a sign up that read "We Airmail to Hobart every Week" you knew they sold Tatts tickets. Tatts had bigger prizes than the Art Union, but they also sold more tickets.
I came home from work and, as always, I looked after the shop while Mum and Dad along with my brother Colin and sister Janice had tea, dinner.
I saw a grey Morris Minor pull up outside the shop and, for some reason, I knew the man driving it worked at the CBA (Commercial Bank of Australia) in Dunedin.
He came in and asked "Mr Dick?"
I was too young to be "Mister" — callow youth were still "Master" in that era — so I went for Dad.
I was intrigued, so I stood in the background and listened.
He introduced himself as working for the CBA and he was acting on behalf of both the bank and Tattersalls Lotteries. The shop did sell Tatts tickets? Yes. Did the shop sell such and such a ticket? I got excited at this stage as there was a bonus for the shop that sold the winning ticket. Yes said Dad. Who did you sell it to? Dad looked — "It was unsold, so I bought it myself".
Congratulations you've won first prize.
I thought I had gone mad. The Art Union was £3,500 I think, but Tatts was £10,000.
So m-u-u-c-h money! My head swam.
Mum and Dad cracked open the scotch and had a drink. I looked after the shop some more.
A mate came in for a teenaged chat, I smirked. He asked why I was smirking. I told him I couldn't tell him. He asked "Your folks haven't won Tatts have they?" I was flabbergasted — I was flabbergasted a lot in those days.
How did he know? Wild guess, there had been a rumour on the bus coming out from town that someone in Brighton had won £10,000. In those days the NZR buses to Brighton were mobile communities — same people day after day on the 35 minute rural trip.
Made no difference to Mum and Dad's lifestyle. They paid off the mortgage, Dad bought a VW Kombi to replace the rattletrap Fordson van, us kids got £500 each and Janice was sent to Columba College.
Mum and Dad stayed on another 11 years in the 12 hour a day, seven days a week business before eventually selling out and moving to Auckland.
Do the calculations. The average working wage for an adult at the time was about £10.00 a week. I was getting £5.00 straight from school. It was a lot of money.
They got their photograph in the newspaper.
Just as there was with Arthur Allan Thomas and just as there was with David Docherty, there will be a small percentage of people who will never accept that David Bain “didn’t do it” because of some misplaced belief in the system.
David Bain was initially a victim of cowboy Police work and then the huge egos in the New Zealand justice system.
Think about David Bain. How could anyone be expected to now live a normal life after the trauma and nightmare of the past 15 years?
Some of the police evidence was based on his behaviour, and the things he did — and didn’t do — in the house on that awful morning when he arrived home after his paper run.
Did anyone try to put themselves in the place of a 17 year old lad who comes into the family home to find the five people closest to him all dead. Not just dead — slaughtered in what was a brutal blood bath.
I can’t start to imagine what my reaction would be, but I suspect I would have gone totally to pieces and run around the place not really knowing, far less remembering, what I did.
But then the nightmare deepened — so deep that it would have destroyed lesser people. On top of the horror of finding his family dead under those conditions, he’s then charged with their murder and then the deepest, darkest nightmare of it all — the trial and having to sit and listen to evidence of the scene in the house, filled with the most gruesome detail about five people he loved. Not only that, but chapter and verse, the family's secrets were exposed and laid out for the world to wallow in.
Something called compassion was totally lost. Lost to the point that jokes were even made about the jersey knitted for him by his slain mother!
David Bain had fallen into that combative zone of our justice system where his feelings and emotions were totally disregarded as prosecution and defence engaged in a contest, a game, that is as brutal and unforgiving as any rugby league match between avowed enemies. It is a cross between sport and war.
He was found guilty and spent 13 years in jail before being released because of the efforts of one person.
David Bain had a lot of friends and family who knew he wasn’t guilty and they gave him valuable moral support. But it was the nuggety, hard-headed, flinty ex All Black and former rugby league player Joe Karam — a man whose only connection with Dunedin, where the murders took place, was through his Lebanese heritage (there are several large Lebanese family groups in Dunedin).
He had never met David Bain or any of his family. But there was something about the case that made him feel uncomfortable — so uncomfortable he went on a crusade.
I don’t think that anyone really understands what drove Joe Karam to get as involved in the David Bain case as he did. The New Zealand Lebanese community tend to keep to themselves and many of Karam’s friends were puzzled by the public passion with which he fought for David Bain’s release.
Getting the case to the Privy Council in London came after appeals failed. Just having the Privy Council hear the case was a victory — but the quashing was a stunning victory for Karam’s rock-solid belief.
It’s probably fair to say that up unto this stage the vast majority of New Zealanders probably accepted that David Bain was guilty and were a bit bemused by Joe Karam’s ongoing war. Karam never gave up despite setback after setback.
If we took time away from the things that occupied our busy lives, maybe we might have thought “I wonder if Joe Karam has something here?” But then we’d go back to doing whatever it was we were doing.
The Privy Council decision seemed like the end of it. David Bain had served 13 years in jail — the Privy Council decision didn’t mean he was innocent, nor did it mean he was guilty — just that there were flaws in the case that made the conviction “unsafe”.
For most people that would have been the end of it. It happened a long time ago and David had served 13 years. But that didn’t take into account the enormous ego of our Justice System that sees itself as God-like and infallible.
Collectively, the system decided that if the Privy Council thought the first trial was flawed, they’d do it again. They didn’t have to. But they did.
Wouldn’t you have thought that someone, somewhere would have had the common sense to take a long, hard, dispassionate view of the whole affair, poked, probed, checked on the police background and asked the questions — “if we go to trial again, are we going to win? Is this the right thing to do? Were the police actions and decisions in those early stages of the investigation right?”
But, apparently common sense is not a commodity in the justice system.
So David Bain had to go through it all again. This time it was worse. By now the media, and the public looked beyond David’s jersey and were fascinated by the case, broadcasting, reporting and detailing every gruesome aspect of the events in that house in Every Street, Anderson’s Bay, Dunedin. It became entertainment — the Biggest Show in Town. Journalists and TV crews virtually camped at the Christchurch High Court and lawyers became TV stars.
Again we heard of how the family died, the state of the house, the state of the family — it was an extraordinarily public scrutiny of a family’s secrets.
I wanted to howl with rage when I saw David Bain sitting in court, looking so impassive as horrible, terrible, awful details about the bodies of his family were discussed as if they had been inanimate objects. I howled with rage when I heard family and friends talking about the relationships in a family that was far from unique — dysfunctional yes, but there are many, many others like that.
David Bain and everything about him was lost as the war between the powers of the Justice system raged around him. David Bain was not a human being with feelings, emotions, memories and a soul — he was simply a number. A number wearing a dark suit and glasses, sitting in a chair in the court.
The trial lasted 13 weeks and I don’t think I saw a flicker of emotion from David Bain in that entire time. I tried to imagine what was being bottled up.
Thirteen weeks of evidence. A day each of summing up from the lawyers and almost a day of summing up by the judge
The media, the experts, the lawyers all said the jury faced a massive job. They were expected to be out for days, maybe weeks. They came back with their "NOT GUILTY" verdict in less than a day!
The David Bain retrial is estimated to have cost us somewhere between $15 and $20 million dollars. Our money. Back in less than a day after all that time? Neither the justice system nor the taxpayer got value for money.
What happens from here? I hope that we never hear of David Bain again. I hope he has long life that’s as happy as it can be, given the terrible events and the cruel treatment by the police and the justice system over the past 15 years.
There will be no retributions because our justice system is so biased in favour of the system itself. Someone should be accountable because the case was based on flawed evidence — but it was so long ago.
I knew some of the people involved in the investigation and I can believe that they decided, almost arbitrarily, that David was guilty and then set out to find the evidence that suited that. They weren’t bright enough to carry out a proper investigation.
Thank God for Joe Karam.
DAVID BAIN 2
I can't believe the viciousness of some people. After Arthur Allan Thomas was freed those who still thought he was guilty had to go to the effort of writing letters to express themselves, or make phone calls. Today the internet and phone texting has seen us enter a new age of instant communication and there are sites devoted entirely to claiming Bain's guilt.
I'm a bit old fashioned when it comes to this sort of thing — I believe if you have something controversial to say, you should have the courage of your convictions and be prepared to front up with your name. Newspapers and magazines of any repute insist you supply name, address and phone number for Letters to the Editor to verify you are genuine, even if you are using a pen-name. Not so these internet blog sites — it's open season for any crank and halfwit to make any outrageous claim on any subject that comes into their tiny minds — and they do so in complete anonymity — that's gutter cowardice.
The release of the suppressed recording of Bain's 111 call added briefly to the debate. On one hand the police and prosecution case tried to have us believe that David plotted the cold blooded murder of his entire family and put in place a cunning alibi based on his paper round. But then they also try to convince us that a noise on a recording is David "confessing" to the 111 operator that he had "just shot the prick".
Cunning, cold-blooded plan, ruthlessly carried out, but then he "confesses". Eh! Explain that one.
That noise on the recording was simply a noise and was no more the words claimed than it was "I have just been to the South Pole", or "I want large a Hawaiian pizza please". Read Part Two here.