Bain thumb mark doubt

Police doubt marks seen on fingerprints of Robin Bain are the result of him having loaded a gun before his death, but David Bain supporter Joe Karam has rubbished their conclusion.

Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess yesterday released two reports in relation to the theory that marks seen in photographs of Robin Bain's thumb were caused by gun powder residue from the loading of a cartridge into a firearm magazine.

The claim, made through television programme 3rd Degree in June, prompted police to analyse original postmortem fingerprint forms and to test the weapon used in the Bain homicides.

Environmental Science and Research (ESR) firearms expert Kevan Walsh assessed whether marks on Robin Bain's fingerprints were consistent with marks made by the loading of the gun.

He found the marks on Robin Bain's fingerprints were generally shorter and wider than those which resulted from testing the gun, but were within testing variations.

The marks on Robin Bain's fingerprints were also not parallel, Mr Walsh said.

''In my opinion there is considerable doubt that the shape, dimensions and colour of the marks on Mr Bain's thumb are consistent with marks made as a result of loading a cartridge into a magazine,'' he said.

Mr Walsh also said the lack of appropriate scales and the position of Robin Bain's thumb in the original photographs prevented a definitive conclusion about whether they were the result of loading a magazine.

''Although there appears to be a pair of lines on Mr Bain's thumb that could have resulted from loading a cartridge into a magazine, there is lacking an accurate correspondence of the features of the marks,'' he said.

Mr Burgess said the most likely explanation for the marks on the photographs ''would seem to be'' pre-existing age or injury to the skin on Robin Bain's thumb.

''I am satisfied that this scientific analysis shows the marks highlighted by the 3rd Degree programme are anything but the 'game changer evidence' the programme claimed,'' he said.

Mr Karam told the Otago Daily Times he was not surprised at the police conclusion.

He said the reports were part of an ''academic attempt at rebuttal'', which ''failed miserably'' to ask the necessary questions in relation to the Bain homicide case.

Those questions included how the marks on Robin Bain's fingers were made, why they were not evident in the original examination by pathologist Alexander Dempster, and why Dr Dempster - as the initial pathologist in the case - was not consulted about the marks in the recent analysis.

''For these reports to have any credibility whatsoever, police should have consulted with Dr Dempster, their own examining pathologist. We know he stated there were no cuts or marks on Robin Bain's thumb.''

Mr Karam said police had failed to provide an alternative explanation for the marks.

He said the reports were ''shonky'' and part of an attempt by police to ''muddy the waters'' in relation to evidence in the case.

Mr Karam was present when the firearm was tested and when the original fingerprint forms were analysed, observing on behalf of David Bain.

- A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Judith Collins yesterday said Cabinet had put David Bain's application for compensation on hold at his request.

The judicial review process was ongoing, and it remained inappropriate for the minister to comment, the spokeswoman said.

She said a substantive hearing was expected to occur later this year.

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz