Bain family murders

The Bain family murders were the deaths by gunshot of Robin and Margaret Bain and three of their four children – Arawa, Laniet and Stephen – in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 20 June 1994. The only suspects were David Cullen Bain, the eldest son and only survivor, and Robin Bain, the father.[1] David Bain, aged 22, was charged with five counts of murder. In May 1995, he was convicted on each of the five counts and sentenced to mandatory life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of sixteen years.[2]

1994 multiple homicide in New Zealand
“David Bain” redirects here. For other uses, see David Bain (disambiguation).

Bain’s case was taken up by businessman and former rugby player Joe Karam. In 2007, Bain’s legal team, guided by Karam, successfully appealed to the Privy Council, which declared there had been a ‘substantial miscarriage of justice‘.[3] David Bain was released on bail in May 2007. The retrial in June 2009 ended with his acquittal on all charges.[4]

Speculation about the case continued long after Bain was acquitted, including whether or not he should receive compensation for the years he spent in prison. Ian Binnie, a retired justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, was appointed in November 2011 to review the circumstances and advise the government on whether compensation should be paid. Binnie concluded that the Dunedin police made ‘egregious errors’ and that the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ in the case justified the payment of compensation. This report was rejected by the Minister of Justice, on advice from High Court Judge Robert Fisher.[5]

In March 2015, the government appointed Ian Callinan, a retired justice of the High Court of Australia, to conduct a second review of Bain’s compensation claim.[6] Callinan’s review concluded that Bain was not innocent on the balance of probabilities, but the government made an ex gratia payment to Bain of $925,000 in order to settle the matter.[7]

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Robin Irving Bain and Margaret Arawa Cullen were married in 1969 in Dunedin, New Zealand. They had four children: David (born 1972), Arawa (born 1974), Laniet (born 1976) and Stephen (born 1980).[8]

In 1974, they moved to Papua New Guinea, where Robin worked as a missionary teacher. The family returned to New Zealand in 1988.[9] Three years after his return, Robin became the principal of Taieri Beach School.[n 1]

In June 1994, the family lived at 65 Every Street, Andersons Bay, Dunedin.[3]:4 The house was old and ‘semi-derelict’.[3] At this time Robin and Margaret were estranged.[3]:3

David was studying music and classics at Otago University and had a part-time job delivering morning newspapers. Arawa was attending teachers’ training college (formerly Otago Teacher’s College, later Otago University, School of Education) and Stephen was at high school.[3] Laniet had a part-time job in Dunedin and lived away from home, but had returned to the family residence on the Sunday evening of 19 June to attend a family meeting.[11]

Memorial to the Cullen Bain family in Mosgiel

On the morning of 20 June 1994, David Bain called the 111 emergency number at 7:09 am in a distressed state and told the operator: “They’re all dead, they’re all dead.”[12]

When the police arrived they found five members of the Bain family had been shot to death – Robin (58), his wife Margaret (50), their daughters Arawa (19) and Laniet (18), and their son Stephen (14).[3]:6 A message was found typed on a computer that said “sorry, you are the only one who deserved to stay”.[10]:50 Four days later, David, aged 22, was charged with five counts of murder.[2]

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