Bain: the statistical mode

David Bain
David Bain
This is a neutral tribute to David Bain. He simply must be acknowledged as a reliable source of news. Here at the Otago Daily Times, seldom a day goes by when he is not the page one lead. "What shall we put on the cover tomorrow?" we ask ourselves daily except Saturdays, rubbing our grizzled and beleaguered jaws in thought.

"David Bain?" someone offers idly, helpfully. And then everyone chirrups their relief at a problem solved, and the next day's edition can start to take shape.

Not true, but seriously, if a count were done of individuals named in page one leads in the past 20 years, it would not be surprising if David Bain emerged as the most frequently occurring person; the ODT's statistical mode; the paperboy who became Newsmaker No 1.

He is with us always, but this does not necessarily mean he is like Jesus. Is he? A harmless, persecuted and prosecuted man. Some legends have it that way.

Me, I cannot be sure, but do find it worthwhile to flex with the topic every now and then. It's a mental dumbbell. Such exercise keeps the mind supple.

Most weeks I think David probably killed the Bains; occasionally I forget why and am persuaded Robin did it; yesterday I briefly entertained a theory, put abroad by a fellow named Hartog who has published an "Innocentary", to the effect Arawa shot Robin after Robin shot everyone else, including her, and then afterwards she returned to her room where she died of her head injury. Also this week we heard a dingo killed the Bains. Or something. It doesn't actually matter any more.

It really doesn't. The latest legal issue is all that matters, and David's compensation claim is that. It has so far been handled very poorly. It's a terrible mess.

Maybe the original police investigation was a terrible mess too: surely it should not have been that hard to establish, firmly, whodunit in a case such as the Bain killings. A few simple measurements of Robin would have helped. All the best evidence was destroyed prematurely.

So maybe David should be compensated for other people's mistakes, and the way they have prolonged his punishment, regardless of his involvement or otherwise in the murders.

Even if he was the killer, his identity today - including all his relationships - must be so heavily invested in his role as wrongfully convicted person that he will genuinely believe it. Denial, a powerful psychological defence mechanism, is only human.

And if Robin was the killer, it cannot be proven now. Robin is a murky figure. David is a cultural one. He has been the subject of books, a painting, a short musical film, and Dave Dobbyn has declared a gut feeling Dave Bain is innocent.

The morning the murders took place, in 1994 in Anderson's Bay, I was asleep in the neighbouring suburb of Waverley. Over in his suburb, David did his paper round. Eventually I got up, put my kilt on and went to school at Tahuna Normal Intermediate. A girl in my class had to go home because her next-door neighbours had all died, she told us and we disbelieved her.

Then an assembly was held to say some former pupils of the school had been killed in their family home. Everyone knew a Bain or two, or knew someone who did. My next-door neighbour was the ambulance man who attended the scene of my classmate's slain next-door neighbours.

To this day, Chinn-wag understands, David sometimes introduces himself as David of Anderson's Bay; a reminder the events occurred within a community, within a Dunedin locale. Perhaps he has a nostalgia for the quiet suburb, for his simple life with paper round, when he was not yet public property, not yet Newsmaker No 1.