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About 10 days before five members of the Bain family were shot in their Dunedin home, Taieri Beach School principal Robin Bain asked for a final reading of the school house meter.
Darren Palmer, of Mosgiel, told the High Court at Christchurch yesterday he was a contract meter reader at the time of the June 1994 killings and went to the Taieri Beach school where Robin Bain was the principal, some time between June 6 and 10.
After reading the meter, he was going across to the school to return the key when he saw a man walking towards him, hands in his pockets and head down.
The man did not look at him but said he was the school principal and asked for a final reading of the meter, Mr Palmer said.
He said the man, Robin Bain, told him he wanted the meter put back in the name of the school board of trustees, as he was going to be moving back into town.
Robin came across as "quite depressed", Mr Palmer said.
He did not appear to him like someone who would be the principal of a school.
He had not come forward earlier with the information about the incident because he knew how passionate the people of the Taieri Mouth area were about their school principal and he [the witness] had to "carry on" with his job.
Another witness told the court yesterday about her contact with the Bain family in the early 1990s.
Sharleen Stirling, of Rangiora, said she met the family through Arawa Bain, as a result of school music interchanges.
She was billeted with them and found them very welcoming, she said.
She became friends with Arawa when they were both at teachers college and heard about the plans for a new house for the Every St site.
On the Friday before the family was killed, she met Arawa for a hot chocolate.
They were both tired and heading home.
Arawa was "a beautiful person, intelligent but very down to earth", the witness told the court.
Arawa had a very good relationship with older brother David.
Arawa seemed to have a normal relationship with her mother, Margaret, although Margaret would often not speak to her for weeks if there was a disagreement between them.
There seemed to be "issues with money".
Arawa worked at the museum cafe.
"They were expected to work", Ms Stirling said.
The relationship between Margaret and Robin Bain appeared "tense" and they did not talk much to each other.
Robin slept in a caravan on the property.
The witness described Robin Bain as a small man, timid, but very polite to her.
She said the home seemed to be "about knowledge being more important than wealth".
The relationship between Robin and Arawa appeared strained, but she did not know why, Ms Stirling said.
She agreed Arawa appeared not to get on with either parent.
It was all right with her mother when things were going well, but Arawa found her mother staying in bed for extended periods "especially on Christmas Day" hurtful.
But apart from what she was told by Arawa, the Bains seemed a normal, lovely and welcoming family, the witness said.