Lady Di pathologist says wound close range

The pathologist who carried out post mortems on Lady Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed in 1997 says the rifle which shot Robin Bain was touching or very close to his head.

Dr Robert Chapman, a British Home Office forensic pathologist, told the David Bain retrial jury today, he disagreed with Emeritus Prof Dr James Ferris, a Belfast-trained pathologist who put Robin Bain's fatal wound in the intermediate to distant range.

''I'm certain it's a contact or near contact wound,'' Dr Chapman said.

He is giving evidence on the 49th day of the retrial of 37-year-old David Bain for the murders of his father, Robin, mother Margaret, sisters Arawa and Laniet and brother Stephen.

The defence say Robin killed his wife and the three children before committing suicide but the Crown says David shot all five and set the scene to frame his father.

Dr Chapman's evidence was based on examining the pathology relating in particular to the deaths of Robin Bain as well as the death of Laniet. The photographs provided were generally of fairly poor quality, with a great deal of variability in the images making it difficult to interpret the information.

He saw no sign of what Dr Ferris described as ''tattooing'' or powder abrasions which would take the wound in Robin Bain's left temple from close contact to intermediate range.

''My professional opinion is that the wound is either contact or near contact, It's impossible to differentiate,'' Dr Chapman said.

And he said he believed Dunedin pathologist Alex Dempster who carried out the post mortems on the bodies of the Bain family came to the right conclusion when he said the wound was contact or close contact. He was in the best position to say what was present.

Based on the appearance of the wound and the various pathology aspects, Dr Chapman said the wound to Robin Bain was ''consistent with a self-inflicted injury.''

But he could not say definitely that Robin Bain committed suicide.

The Crown pathologists, including Dr Dempster, did not believe Robin Bain killed himself although Dr Dempster conceded that it could have been possible.

In relation to the wounds inflicted to Laniet, Dr Chapman said he agreed the order Dr Ferris believed the wounds occurred - the cheek wound first then the two to the top of the head and above the ear - ''may or may not reflect what actually happened''.

It was difficult to establish how long a person might survive, even after a serious brain injury, Dr Chapman said and he accepted the fluid in Laniet's lungs indicated she had survived, at least for a few minutes, and was able to breathe, which could explain the gurgling sound heard by David Bain. As to bodies making noises for some time after death, Dr Chapman said he seldom saw bodies within an hour of death and was ''rather sceptical'' about such noises occurring.

But he could not exclude the possibility it might happen, he told defence counsel Michael Reed QC.

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