Archive for category 5. Kiwiana

Ka mate Ka mate

the warrior within

the warrior within

A fierce and rousing haka, the good old ka mate ka mate. It creates fear and terror in the hearts of those who face it. Ka mate is only one version of a Maori haka, but it is the one that has been adopted as the iconic national haka of New Zealand. I heard someone recently complain about the length of time a school prize giving took because whenever a pupil of the tangata whenua received a prize, they received a rousing haka from a section of the audience, stretching the ceremony by a couple of hours longer than it could have been. It became most poignant when an Asian girl took a major prize of a multi-thousand dollar university grant to polite applause, followed by a local boy winning a reading skills prize for which his supporters leapt to their feet with hearty slapping of thighs, quivering outstretched arms, bulging eyes and protruding tongues. It is a rousing chant, no question but is this just taking it a bit far? It is a war challenge isn’t it? There should be a time and a place for a war challenge and I am not sure a school prize giving is the time or place.

Te RauparahaThe subject came back to my mind because I am reading a very well-written book on colonial New Zealand in the deep south (Johnny Jones, A Colonial Saga by Diana Harris). The author of the ka mate chant, Te Rauparaha,  features in some of the chapters. He was a chieftain who had fought his way down the North Island, Maui’s land, until he established his stronghold for the Ngati Toa tribe, on Kapiti Island.

But he was a chieftain who had ambitions to plunder the south island, Pounamu (greenstone) land. This land was the homeland of the Kai Tahu tribe which was a merger of the original inhabitants, the Waitaha who later merged with the Kati Mamoe when they arrived from the North Island in the fifteenth century who then, in the late seventeenth century, intermarried with the Ngai Tahu from the North Island’s east coast. By the time the pakeha arrived, most of the south island was under the united tribe of Kai Tahu.

But I preamble to explain how I rediscovered an interest in Te Rauparaha’s ka mate haka. He did lead a war party from Kapiti Island down to the south island when his war party slaughtered the people of Kaikoura before moving on to Kaiapoi where Te Maiharanui’s pa was located. Te Maiharanui was the spiritual leader of Kai Tahu. Te Rauparaha sent his chiefs in ahead to have a chat, but Te Waiharanui was taking no chances and so when he invited them to dinner they discovered that they were actually the menu. They ate Te Rauparaha’s chiefs for dinner. Literally. True story.

Te Rauparaha was well displeased and sometime later conspired with a pakeha ship’s captain to hide his warriors on the ship when it came into Akaroa harbour and lure Te Maiharanui and his family aboard to trade for muskets. They were captured and then Te Rauparaha’s war-party attacked the local villagers, butchering, eating or enslaving them before returning to Kapiti. He took Te Maiharanui back to Kapiti where he was killed. A year later the tribes down in Otakau and Waitaha heard that Te Rauparaha was back in the south island, causing mischief in Kaiapoi so Te Whakataupuka from Ruapuke (the island off the Southland coast now known as Stewart Island), with Taiaroa and Karetai from Otakau, put a team together and set off to have a word with him.

Long story short the southerners gave the invaders a bit of a spanking up at the salt lake in Marlborough and then dined out well at the after-match. But they were disappointed that they did not actually capture Te Rauparaha who had run off during the battle and then swam to an escaping waka, threw one of his warriors into the water, took his seat and paddled for all he was worth.

I was dismayed. I had an image of Te Rauparaha as being one of those stand and fight to the end guys. Death or glory. Aotearoa’s very own Geronimo or Musashi. Fearless in battle; inspirational in leadership; not a man who would throw one of his boys to the enemy ovens while he ran for his life. How could this man Te Rauparaha be the author of the our national warlike challenge, ka mate, ka mate?

So I looked further into the history of the ka mate ka mate haka. As it turns out, Te Rauparaha was on the run from his foe (he’s starting to make a habit of this running away from a fight thing). Anyway, he made his way to the village of a friendly chief, explained his predicament and was promptly put down a deep hole and the chief’s wife obligingly sat on the opening to hide him. When the enemy came storming through they couldn’t find him so they raced on. Some tales diplomatically refer to it as a kumara pit, other historians conclude that if the deception was created by the wife sitting on the opening, then it was far more likely to be a long-drop public toilet. So anyway when it’s all clear, the wife gets off the hole and Te Rauparaha is helped up whereupon he creates his ka mate ka mate haka in recognition of his close brush with death. This haka celebrates successfully hiding from his foes down a public lavatory.

Translated it goes:

I may die, I may die, I may live, I may live (repeat)

The hairy one (a gentleman would have averted his eyes) allowed the sunlight to reach me

One step up, then another and another, and lo! the sun shines,

All Blacks haka When we sing the New Zealand anthem at these games we sing it both in Maori and English. I am relieved that we do not translate the ka mate haka into English. It sounds a fearsome, warlike, fight-to-the-death challenge in Maori, but loses a lot of its message in the translation. It would be a tad embarrassing if a few burly Saffas or French understood the true meaning as they faced the haka in a world cup final; and as for the Aussies, that just would not bear thinking about. I just hope this blog is never translated into French or Afrikaans. Fortunately the Aussies’ literacy skills are quite limited so they are unlikely to be reading past the headline. But apart from that, do you think that chants extolling the glory hiding down a toilet when the bad guys are after you is the sort of response we should be encouraging among our vulnerable young at school prize giving ceremonies??

Compare Ka mate with the Ko Niu Tireni (New Zealand) haka written by Wiremu Rangi for the All Black Invincibles’ tour of the British Isles.

The final chorus is:

Ka Tu te ihiihi (we shall stand fearless)

Ka tu te wanawana (we shall stand exalted in spirit)

Ki runga ki te rangi (we shall climb to the heavens)

E tu iho nei, tu iho nei, hi (we shall attain the zenith, the utmost heights)

The great George Nepia led this haka. The British were a bit stunned and bemused by this war chant following their “God Save the Queen”. But when Nepia led it on their 22nd game in Llanelli they performed it to a crowd that had just finished a rousing rendition of “Land of my fathers”; and if anyone can mob-sing it is the Welsh. But a newspaper report said that when Nepia led the haka the crowd was so silent you could hear a pin drop. At the end of the haka the crowd took up the challenge as one with another impromptu rendition of “Land of my fathers.” Respect!

The we then beat them 8-3.

Ko Niu Tireni  works for me on the rugby pitch or in the school hall. If I need someone to watch my back, give me Wiremu Rangi of the 28th Maori Battallion over Te Rauparaha any day. I would vote for this Ko Niu Tireni haka to become our national anthem as well as our national haka.

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Howdy neighbour….

A big truck blocked my driveway yesterday morning. It was here to load up all the earthly possessions of my neighbour of 30+ years and shift them somewhere else. This should be a time for having a beer and a farewell barbecue to chat about all the good days; about having watched our children grow from little kids to parents themselves. A tear in either eye, a staunch man hug, a brave wave and promises to keep in touch wafting into the wind.

But it wasn’t like that. Truth is he hasn’t spoken to me for well over twenty years. Nor I to him, if I’m honest, but he started it. I was the one who actually spoke last when I delivered the final words of our final conversation those 20+ years ago which, to memory, went along the lines of, “ you bring your hose over here, Stew, and I’ll shove it up straight up your arse for you.”

Seemed just a little harmless neighbourly banter to me; even if I had carried it out, a bit of colonic irrigation should not have been unwelcome, I would have thought, given he seemed to have shit on his liver over such a minor little dispute.

I should explain, 20+ years ago, before Helen Clark’s insane reign, it was not uncommon for homes to have an incinerator at the bottom of the garden. For incinerator read: a 45 gallon oil drum with the top cut off then forced down to about a foot from the bottom held in place by a couple of metal rods someone found somewhere to form the base of the incinerator and below that a hole roughly cut out to allow air to suck up and increase the potency of the flame. When the old drum rusted to useless, you phoned a bloke who knew a bloke with a truck (borrowed from his employer who presumably has a need for drums of oil and always wonders what happens to the empty drums) who turned up on a Saturday afternoon with the new one. It cost a slab of beer from memory. What you Post-Clark (=PC) children have missed out on! What fun days they were. Load the drum up with all the newspapers, cardboard boxes and what have you, throw a bit of motor mower petrol on for good measure, drop in a lit match and Bob’s your uncle. In the autumn sweep up dead leaves and throw them on top. I tell you it was very cheap entertainment on a Saturday afternoon and burning a drum full of bits and pieces really is something of a primal-spiritual experience.

Well to most of the world it was. But neighbour Stew was a “health inspector” from the Council. That job title is a euphemism for miserable little interfering gnome. Straight out of the Hobbit, was Stew. I caught him once previously, sifting, uninvited, through the ashes of our incinerator. I calmly enquired what the fornication he thought he was doing? He claimed the immunity of his illustrious position within the Council which apparently gave him the right to enter properties for the purpose of seeking evidence of the burning of toxic substances such as plastic bottles. He delivered this little homily looking exactly like Gollum from the Hobbit searching for his Precious. That’s when neighbour is pronounced nay-boor. But at that point Ava emerged and things got a bit ugly. Things were said.

And it wasn’t only incinerators. Wee Stewie took his responsibilities for enforcing the Council by laws very seriously. We were getting a few kitchen renovations done. Nothing too major and it was only by peering through the kitchen window from Stewie’s side of the house that anyone could see any sign of building activity. Then the building inspector knocked on the door; claimed to have been just walking past and thought he could notice a bit of non-consented building activity down the side of the house, behind the garage, out of view of the street. That could have been the very first Tui billboard, but Kiwis didn’t drink that horse piss back then. Stewie denied all knowledge of how the building inspector happened by our quiet little dead-end street, but what do you think? If it looks like dog shit etc etc.

Talking of dog shit reminds me, we owned a lazy, friendly old labrador called Ben. Even though it was not his specialist subject Stewie was no stranger to the dog by laws either. The result was that our dog became great friends with the dog ranger. She would often ring up at work and tell us she was looking after Ben for the afternoon as Stewie was up to his old tricks again. It turned out that Stewie had invented a sport called dog-fishing. One day he was actually observed hiding behind his hedge throwing a long piece of string baited with a piece of meat onto the street. When a passing dog took interest, Stewie would lure it into his yard, shut the gate and rush inside and, while the dog was distracted with the meat, Stewie would call the dog ranger. Good old section 5.3 of the Dunedin City Council Dog Control By Law, ‘dogs shall not wander onto private property,’ got them every time.

Sam had a birthday party one year and invited two or three hundred of her closest friends. True to Stewie form, the noise control officers turned up with their little headphones and sound-register machines. Unfortunately the party had not reached the noise levels to qualify as a neighbourly nuisance which, to my mind, defeated the whole point of the party. Stew was a fun guy, the life and soul of any party.

KilroyAnyway, the reason for the offer of colonic irrigation which led to the 20+ years of silent treatment was that one afternoon, Kilroy style, he had proclaimed his intent and his duty to come over with his hose and extinguish my incinerator which, he claimed, had exceeded the permitted hours as specified in the Council by-laws for the disposal of approved materials by incineration in your backyard 45 gallon drum. He decided against testing my resolve to shove his hose up his bum and so, to drive home the point, my incinerator burned happily into the evening sky in blissful challenge to the appropriate by law. On his side of the fence he must have fumed as much as my incinerator and secretly vowed never, ever, ever to speak to me again. A vow he kept, for which I am most grateful.

But some time after, for a reason I never found out, the Council decided they no longer needed wee Stewie’s health-inspecting services. That was a bit of a dark time for poor old Stew. Enforcing Council by laws was his raison d’etre. Now the strutting little health inspector was stripped of his stripes, his clipboard confiscated and he was ceremonially drummed out of the city council health-inspecting squad. For a Ronin there are few options left as they wander the countryside in shame. But Stew, however, was fortunate to find a new role in another council, this time for the inspection of waterways. So off he would go, of a morning, in his safari suit, armed with his butterfly net and specimen jar to wander the ponds and the rivers of the countryside in search of bits of floating turd. But, to be perfectly honest, that probably isn’t as much fun as it sounds. It had neither the status nor glamour of inspecting incinerators for molten plastic and kitchens for rodent droppings, but at least it got him out of the house. And it was in the great outdoors that Stew had an awakening and discovered his inner entrepreneur. For out in the countryside he saw wood; lots of wood, just lying around waiting for someone to cut it up into fireplace sized bits and burn it. Stewie had turned to the dark side. If the City Council would not pay him to pour water on incinerators, then he would get in the business of creating the fuel for more and bigger fires. He would fill the skies with the vengeful smoke from Stewie’s well-cut firewood!  He bought a little truck, complete with a personalised plate declaring “Wudy1- I do got wood”. That might seem a bit cocka doodle dooey for a wood-chopping turd scooper but, to be fair, after a dark period in the emotional wilderness, he was now back in the game with his truck continuously loaded up with logs, pallets and assorted bits of scrap wood all ready for the big chop. It was the perfect career for him; having such a low centre of gravity made him perfectly suited to chopping logs and scrambling over stacks of firewood and so, once again, his happy whistling wafted over the fence.

But it wasn’t all hard work for Stewie. When he wasn’t chopping wood and fishing for turds, he knew how to have a good time. He discovered the thrill of flying model airplanes. Oh how we marvelled at them buzzing around the neighbourhood like angry wasps. I could only watch on in envy at this dashing young man with his flying machines. He took it very seriously and even went away to model airplane flying events around the country with lots of other people of a similar stature, if not age. No doubt, as they sat around the campfire in the evenings after an adventurous day’s flying, Stewie had them in awe with his tales of stalking renegade turds, ‘you get down-wind and sniff the air‘. If they had any doubts before about what they wanted to do when they grew up, they were surely inspired by Stew.

But when I say he did not communicate, I have to admit that he did sort of communicate reasonably recently. I just did not reciprocate. I had started parking my car outside his house instead of mine. I just thought that, since he was such an anal little prick, this might irritate him to distraction. Yes I know it was childish. But what I did not realise was there was, apparently, a Council by law that specified that I park no closer than one metre from a neighbour’s driveway. I was probably 20 centimetres short of a metre. But as if to show me that he was no longer the sort of sneaky little scrotum who would call up the Council, Stew left me this note on my windscreen:

Pure gold

I give him credit for a neighbourly warning of the danger of parking 20 cm too close to his driveway, but the truth was probably that when he phoned the Council they put him on hold for a couple of hours listening to muzak. Whatever, the important thing is that our footpath now has a red paint line on it to help me, in future, maintain the legal distance from his driveway and avoid the wrath of a parking officer who might happen to be passing down this dead-end street in search of vehicles that might be parked within a metre of the neighbouring driveway. Apparently there are no council by laws about painting red lines on footpaths.

So while we may not have been close neighbours over the decades, I had to accept my share of the blame for that. And he was a neighbour for 30 years; he was part of my daily life for over ten thousand days and I realised that, in a way, I would miss old Stew. So now, as he drove away for the last time, it hit home to me that I may never see him again; that I may never get to say what really should have been said a long, long time ago, I felt the urge to call out, “Stewie, Stewie……I may not have actually said the words to you before but, Stewie… mate, you are a grade-one little wanker.”


How on earth did we get here?

European New Zealanders! How on earth did we get here? And why? This South Pacific region is the southern part of the Asian world.  The Aborigines arrived in Australia from South East Asia an impressive 40 – 50,000 years ago when the ice age climate meant seas were about 100-150 metres shallower than now and New Guinea and Tasmania were joined to the continent. The Aborigines were therefore able to island-hop from South East Asia to Australia.

New Zealand was, even then, very distant from Australia and so did not receive Homo sapiens occupation from this ancient southern migration. The original Maori immigrants actually arrived here comparatively recently, probably around 12-1300 AD, having travelled for an unknown period of centuries or millennia by an open sea route from China via Taiwan and Hawaii.

And here the Maori lived in a secluded, primitive, tribal existence for hundreds of years. It was not as if the Chinese lacked for the technology to follow this route en masse and totally dominate the South Pacific. In the very early 1400’s AD, 200 years before Abel Tasman sailed by and 300 years before Cook, a Chinese Admiral, Zheng He, was a far greater explorer than Magellan, Columbus, Tasman or Cook. Under the direction of the Yongle Emperor, Zheng He led seven armada from China throughout the Indian ocean. The biggest of his voyages included 300 ships with 30,000 sailors on board. That absolutely dwarfs Columbus’ Tasman’s or Cook’s efforts. But a change in the balance of political power in China resulted in the massive maritime exploration policy being stopped in 1433. The new rulers believed that the only important land was their own “Middle Kingdom” so why spend so much money sailing to the lands of filthy barbarians? And so the Maori lived quietly in Aotearoa, oblivious to these goings on in their Asian homeland.

But then, in the mid 18th century, scientists in Britain decided they desperately wanted to know the distance of earth from the sun. They worked out by some calculation that this measurement could be achieved by taking astronomical observations of the transition of Venus across the sun from different points around the globe; one of those points being the South Pacific. And so the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge had a chat to the Navy and asked them if they wouldn’t mind taking eminent astronomer Charles Green down to Tahiti to observe the 1769 transit of Venus. “No trouble at all, old boy,” said some crusty old admiral over a brandy in The Club. So Captain James Cook was given the job. But since going all that way, the navy thought they may as well have a bit of a nosey around while they are there. A few more passengers were added to paint what they found, collect fauna and draw maps and off they set. And so Cook visited Australia and New Zealand that Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, had discovered 120 years earlier in 1642 and had called Staten Landt, believing that it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America. In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. This was the period in history when the Dutch had taken the alpha-pirate mantle from the Spaniards & Portuguese. But the Dutch were capitalists and this visit was funded by the Dutch East India Company; they only invested in the expensive business of slaughtering natives when they saw an economic return. The Dutch East India Company, with its mercenaries, had already colonised Indonesia and were active in New Amsterdam (renamed New York by the British) but apparently neither New Zealand nor Australia cut it as prudent investments.

The 18th century saw Britain emerge as the global economic and imperial force, but Britain was also going through major social trauma. Industrialisation saw the large volumes of urban drift from the increasingly impoverished countryside. Overpopulation in the cities created major unemployment resulting in an increasing crime rate which threatened the governing upper and middle class citizens. Public hangings did little to deter crime since the criminals had no choice but to take the risk or starve. The Government saw another solution and that was to export its excess population from the lower classes on any minor criminal charge. On Cook’s return to old Blighty, Joseph Banks, who had been the botanist on the voyage, brought the good news that a perfect penal colony in Australia had been identified. While it seemed a good idea, it was an expensive option and so they pursued hanging for a few years later until the situation got so desperate that they bit the bullet and colonised Australia as a prison. In 1788 the first shipment of prisoners arrived at the newest declared British colony in Botany Bay. It may not have appealed to the merchants as an investment like India or America, but it looked like a jolly good place to put your unwanteds.

Following the colonisation of Australia, this South Pacific region started to attract whalers from around the world, America, France and Britain. Whalers raided the New Zealand coastline throughout the last quarter of the 18th century and well into the 19th century. After trading settlements began to establish here, the missionaries were not far behind. There is nothing quite like teaching a bunch of savages the missionary position to stir a missionary’s religious passions. The French established their own settlement on the Akaroa harbour and Bishop Pompelier arrived to save a few heathen souls.

But it was the British who made the call to colonise Aotearoa/ New Zealand, probably not wanting France to establish their own colony so close to Australia; never can trust the froggies, what? And also several Governors of New South Wales had taken political interest in New Zealand in support of the Australian traders dealing with Maoris. So finally a treaty was established with the Maori in 1840 and Aotearoa officially became a British colony under the Anglicised Dutch name, New Zealand. The rest is history. Circumstances in Britain such as the Irish potato famine, Scottish religious disharmony, high unemployment and the stratified class system brought, over the next century, 3 million  immigrants to establish New Zealand as a dominant British society as the Maori native population fell dramatically. The New zealand climate and geography was significantly more British that in Australia.

NZ EthnicityBut a hundred and fifty years later, give or take, we are starting to see both a resurgence of the Maori population, or in those declaring Maori ancestry, as well as a renewed interest from Asia. In the 2013 census, 12% of New Zealanders identified as Asian, an increase of 33% since 2006 and now surpassing the Pacific Islanders at 7% and only slightly behind Maori at 15%. Europeans still dominate at 74%, but look at the trends.

Equally interesting to the population trend is the median age of each group. Europeans median age is 41; Asians is 30; Maori 24 and Pacific Islanders 22.

Population dominance trend

Population dominance trend

Prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, Australians and British citizens negotiated directly with Maori over land rights. When the Crown showed intent to annex New Zealand, an association of British investors tried in 1838 to get legislative backing from the British government to colonise New Zealand; their attempt failed. The Association was then dissolved and some of its members formed the New Zealand Company. This Company also failed to get Government backing  but decided anyway to proceed with its investment plans and sent an expedition led by Colonel William Wakefield to purchase land as the site for the first settlement.

Colonel Wakefield’s party reached Wellington Harbour in September 1839 and initiated negotiations with a number of Maori chiefs for land on both sides of Cook Strait. The Company claimed to have purchased 20 million acres of land and parcels of this land were being sold in London by this property speculation company before these negotiations were concluded.

So when the settlers arrived at Wellington Harbour on 22 January 1840, just four months after Wakefield, they found that the land  had not even been surveyed and the Maoris were disputing ownership of much of it. The property speculators of the New Zealand Company had been in a race against time to get in before the Crown formally took control over New Zealand which was done only two weeks later on February 6 1840 with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Initially New Zealand was seen only an extension of Australia to the British Crown. The commercial dealings with New Zealand were primarily between Australia and New Zealand. The British Crown only initially took an interest in annexing New Zealand because such product imported into either Australia or Britain was ‘foreign’ and therefore subject to duties which did not suit the merchants.

Investigations into the New Zealand Company’s claim to have purchased 20 million acres continued for several years, and only a small area was finally agreed as purchased; meanwhile, the disputed land purchases led to fighting and threats of fighting at each of the company’s settlements, Wellington, Wanganui, New Plymouth, and Nelson. But the New Zealand Company was given its charter from the Crown in 1841 to buy and sell land and subsequently Church associations were assisted to establish settlements in Dunedin and Christchurch.

But the initial colonisation of Aotearoa was founded on the very dodgy dealings of British property speculators which the British Crown has tried to sort out over the subsequent 175 years. Once the New Zealand Company had created such a political mess with the Maori, the Crown had to take the role of militarily protecting its British citizens and sorting the mess out. The mess is still not totally sorted out but the interbreeding has been to such an extent that Maori are battling in Court on behalf of one set of their families against the other set of their families.

Notably New Zealand was given its independence of government only thirteen years after the signing of the Treaty. In fact Britain took very little interest in New Zealand until the frozen meat technology in the 1880’s made it a good source of lamb and butter for its increasingly urbanised population. It really was only the shipping of frozen meat and butter that lifted New Zealand from a third world backwater to, eventually, a first world nation. But in 1973 Britain decided it no longer needed New Zealand as a farm any more as it had done  a deal within the European Community. So we had to source other buyers for our farm produce from Asian and Mid Eastern nations. China became a major customer and is now investing in the infrastructure to secure its source of food supply.

It is ironical that so many descendant beneficiaries of the British and Sydney-based land speculation of the 19th century are now so morally outraged about the actions of the Chinese coming in 175 years later, an historical blink of an eye, and actually legitimately buying our ‘birthright’ from willing sellers in order to establish some control over a farm to feed its very urbanised population in China, a nation that has a genetic kinship with our Maori population just as Europe has with our Pakeha population.

It’s a funny old world.




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David Bain…. innocent or not innocent.

David Bain: guilty

David Bain: guilty

It all now comes down to money. David Bain has been freed, the case against him unable to satisfy the jurors who sat on his second trial that he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt and now he has made a claim for compensation for 13 years false imprisonment. The trials, appeals and compensation claim have gone on unresolved for years. It must be an enormous drain on the energy of whole Bain family.

The government is obviously dragging its heels on this one. I doubt that a few million dollars would hold the government back from settling if they saw a grave injustice and sensed that the reasonably fair-minded average voter recognised that the man deserved compensation.

So we can only presume that while David Bain has been found not guilty, a significant proportion of caucus are far from convinced about his innocence and his moral right to dip into the public purse for a few million dollars which could be perceived as a rewarding him for slaying his family and directing blame to his innocent father. It has to be noted that not many of the opposition are making much of a fuss about it either.

David Bain: Not guilty

David Bain: Not guilty

The original jurors said he was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt with the evidence they were presented. A second set of jurors with what evidence they were allowed to hear and what evidence was denied to them fifteen years after the event, said ‘not proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt’. I suppose it is always a bit of a lottery with juries. All people are different with different sets of values and opinions.

But what everyone does agree on, if David Bain is innocent, then Robin Bain is guilty. It has to be one or the other. And as far as compensation is concerned, the real question is: David Bain, innocent or not proven innocent beyond all reasonable doubt.

Robin Bain

Robin Bain: Not tried

So the believers in David’s innocence also believe that Robin woke up in the morning, bladder full and unrelieved, waited for David to leave on his newspaper round, put on a green jersey usually worn by daughter Arawa, (fragments of which were found under Stephen’s fingernail), a pair of socks and track pants, then put on David’s opera gloves when he collected the rifle and ammunition from David’s room; then Robin supposedly shot his wife and three of his four children during which process he, despite his age and frailty, overcame his teenage son Stephen who had woken and was struggling for his life. He supposedly managed to strangle Stephen with his own T-shirt and then shoot him in the head. Then it is claimed, Robin discarded the bloody gloves in Stephen’s room, and dropped one of David’s glasses lens in the same room, took off the green jersey and other blood stained clothes and left them all in the laundry.

Robin then, as David’s defence would argue, went back to the caravan, put on clean socks and shoes, an old pair of light-blue track suit pants, a T-shirt, an old business shirt, a brown woollen jersey, a thick hoodie and a green knitted beanie and went back into the house. On one of the two visits to the house he also collected the newspaper from the letterbox. There he supposedly sat down at the computer where he implied responsibility for the slaughter, without giving any reason for it, writing only that he considered David the only one who deserved to live.

Then, in what can be best described as an exceptionally awkward action, propped his temple against the rifle, reached down to the trigger and managed to push it while keeping the rifle straight enough with his other hand for a single lethal suicide shot which was described by the expert pathology witness, Alex Dempster as an extremely unusual angle; doing all this without leaving any fingerprints on the rifle despite gripping the barrel to hold it straight.

David’s was the only fingerprint on the rifle. And in spite of the struggle with Stephen during the slaughter, Robin’s body showed no sign of scratching or bruising while David did retain an unexplained bruise on his head and scratching on his chest. No one explored the possibility that it was David who considered he was the only one in the family who deserved to live.

David claimed he arrived home from his paper round, saw clothes in the laundry, including the green jersey, track pants and socks worn by the killer, then sorted colours from whites without noticing all the blood on them, put them all in the washing machine and turned it on. After that he claims he came across the slaughter of two of his family, waited 20 minutes before phoning 111 saying ‘they are all dead’. It was only months later, after evidence of him being in other rooms was presented, did he remember that he had actually gone into all rooms and had seen all bodies not just two. A supporter would say he was in shock and did not know what he was doing, a non-supporter would say he was removing evidence of his involvement in the slaughter from his clothing and working to a script designed to exonerate himself.

So again we come back to the fact that if not David then it was Robin. But if we put them both on the stand together and asked a jury to point to the most likely guilty party, I wonder how many would truly be convinced of Robin’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt?

But Robin is not here to defend himself and, as so often the case, history is being written by the survivors. How David has built up a team of passionate believers I cannot imagine, but I have not met him and listened as he told his story. Mind you, nor did the second jury as David decided not to give evidence in his own defence, which is unusual for an innocent man who has successfully convinced Joe Karam and others of his innocence. Does David himself actually believe he is innocent? I have no idea, the mind is a mysterious thing. The choice of words of David’s lawyer, Michael Guest, at his first trial were: “David does not remember killing his family” which were scarcely comforting. David’s 2nd defence team, with what evidence was available and admissible, were able to convince the jurors in the second trial, if not of his innocence, then of the insufficiency of the presented evidence to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Those two jurors who congratulated David after giving him his ‘not guilty’ verdict, and then went to his celebration party that night did raise some serious concerns about whether that jury was entirely impartial. This was their one and only moment in the national spotlight; perhaps it deserved a spectacular rather than status quo decision to maintain their moment as long as possible. Perhaps they were twelve stupid and/ or gullible people. Perhaps they thought David had suffered enough?

But if there is a significant number of people who believe that Robin was the killer beyond any reasonable doubt they should simply do as Joe Karam has done; Karam says he believes in David’s innocence and Robin’s guilt and has put his time, energy and money up to back his belief. It is time for his other supporters to do the same. If you believe, put your hand in your pocket, vote with your wallet.

David’s supporters must do this on their own initiative for they simply do not have the right to demand that those who equally believe in Robin Bain’s innocence should be forced to pay compensation to David through a taxation charge; especially since they then believe that David murdered his family and set out to destroy his father’s name. It is not as if the general public has not heard all the arguments from both sides over fifteen years.

If just a quarter of our population believe David is innocent, and then they each sacrifice two cups of coffee in support of their convictions, David will have sufficient compensation to see him enjoy the lifestyle of a wealthy man, which is what his supporters want.

And those who believe in Robin’s innocence have not had their belief compromised by being taxed for what they consider to be David’s reward for fooling the 2nd jury.

Debate over, problem solved, win/win.

William Davies

Footnote: 2017. Having “cleared his name”, he has now changed it. Having been given just under a million dollars in ‘compensation’ he is off to Australia to spend it there. Whatever that all says about the person formerly known as David Bain.

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