The research on familicide all points to Robin Bain as the killer

david-bainFamilicide is the name given to a particular kind of multiple murder – where one member of a family kills virtually everyone else in the family. If the perpetrator commits suicide afterwards (which occurs in 60% of such cases), it is referred to as familicide-suicide.

In June, 1994, David Bain was accused of shooting all five members of his family – the crime of familicide. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison – although according to Canadian judge Ian Binnie ‘no plausible motive ever emerged’.  He spent 13 years in prison before a retrial, at which he was found not guilty.

Throughout this process, David’s defence team argued that Robin Bain killed his wife and children while David was out delivering newspapers; that he typed the cryptic message found on the family computer (‘Sorry. You are the only one who deserved to stay’) and then shot himself – in a case of familicide-suicide.

Ian Callinan: forced to stand down in Australia because of perceived bias

Binnie said David should get compensation. The Government didn’t like that idea and shopped around for another judge – one who was willing to write a report declaring that David didn’t deserve it. They found one in Ian Callinan QC, who had a history of bending the rules in Australia.

So far, not much has been reported in the New Zealand media about Callinan’s dodgy legal ethics or the extraordinary flaws in his compensation report. But there’s a wealth of information available on the David Bain Campaign website.


But there’s another side to this story which has not seen much daylight either. A systematic review of the literature on familicide  found a number of common factors in such incidents. The first is that in 95% of cases where both parents were killed, the perpetrator was the father. Only 1% of familicides are committed by an adult son. The researcher wrote:

“In cases where (one of the) sons killed both parents, the research indicates that the perpetrator is always either severely abused, suffering from severe mental disorders (usually psychotic) or psychopathic. There are no identified cases where the son exhibits none of these pathologies and does not commit suicide.”

Robin Bain fits the profile for familicide

Second, many of these fathers displayed symptoms of depression prior to the killings and a number of Robin Bain’s professional colleagues testified to this effect. Fellow teachers described Robin at the time of the killings as “deeply depressed, to the point of impairing his ability to do his job of teaching children”.

He also published graphic and inappropriate stories of violence and killings by his 9-year-old pupils in the school newsletter; one of those stories involved the murder of an entire family. The president of the Taieri Principals’ Association at the time, found this “unbelievable” and regarded the publication of these stories as “the clearest possible evidence that Robin Bain had lost touch with reality due to his mental state” (Privy Council, 2007, para 41). The publication also suggests Robin had possibly been planning to kill his family months in advance.

It appears Robin Bain never sought professional help for depression, but this is another point of commonality; fathers who commit familicide tend to view themselves as the head of the family, and “control their outer image closely, rarely confiding in people or seeking help”. The fact that family and friends said Robin appeared to be happy is consistent with other familicides; such men internalise their personal sufferings in order to maintain appearances.

Angry vs despairing perpetrators 

The literature also suggests there are two types of familicide perpetrator. At one end of the continuum, there is the angry type – men who have displayed a well-established history of anger and hostile behaviour, especially towards women. For this type, the killing of one’s partner and children is an act of revenge or punishment, usually following parental separation. At the other end of the continuum, there is the despairing type of perpetrator who has no previous history of hostile behaviour and is generally well regarded in the community. This description applies to Robin Bain.  For this type, familicide, followed by suicide is “an escape both for himself and his family from an intolerable future”.

In addition to feelings of depression and anger, the literature shows that familicide is generally preceded by a prolonged build-up of shame. This usually follows parental separation or a serious breakdown in the relationship; loss of employment or significant financial losses may also be involved.  These lead to a psychological loss of control and/or a perceived loss of social status.   Robin Bain also fits this profile. He and Margaret had been estranged for several years and by all accounts, he was unfulfilled in his job. He had applied for a number of other teaching positions, but was unsuccessful.

But for Robin Bain, there may have been an even greater source of shame. He was a Christian, a Freemason and a respected member of the community. At the second trial, witnesses said he had been committing incest with his youngest daughter, Laniet, ever since the family came back from Papua New Guinea. If indeed he had been molesting her, this would have created intense feelings of guilt and internal conflict. It seems that “despair is the end-state for these perpetrators”.

The triggering event

The research also found that in most cases of familicide there is usually some kind of triggering event, one which leads to a sense of “ignominy, terminal public shame, mortification and self-disgust”.  Testimony at the second trial suggests Laniet was about to reveal to the rest of the family what her father had been doing to her. It seems the potential loss of face Robin Bain was facing was so great, he not only killed everyone else in the family (except David), he also shot himself. This is another point of commonality.  In over 60% of familicide cases, the offender subsequently commits suicide.

In summary, David Bain did not have an identified motive, did not have a mental health disorder and did not commit suicide. Robin Bain did, or had, all three. In every single aspect of this case, it is Robin Bain rather than David Bain, who fits the profile of the typical perpetrator of familicide, followed by suicide.

What does Tony Robertson have in common with Graeme Burton, William Bell & the Beast of Blenheim?

BlessieTony Robertson was sentenced to eight years in prison for indecently assaulting a five year old girl in 2005. He was considered a high risk prisoner and the parole board declined to release him on four separate occasions.  He was eventually released in December 2013 at the end of his sentence. Although he was not on parole, he was subject to ‘release conditions’ which means he was on an electronic bracelet for six months.

After five months of relative freedom, he ran over Blessie Gotingco (left) in his BMW, raped her and then stabbed her to death. Former Ombudsman, Mel Smith (below left), was asked to conduct an enquiry to find out what went wrong. His report concluded:

“Robertson, and only Robertson, can be held responsible for what happened to Mrs Gotingco”.

Mel smithAt the same time, Smith made 27 recommendations identifying those areas where the management of high risk offenders such as Mr Robertson could be improved. That’s weird. Corrections did nothing wrong – but here’s 27 things they could have done better. That doesn’t add up does it?

A few of those 27 recommendations related to the pathetic attempts made by Corrections to rehabilitate Robertson. Apparently, he was involved in more than 50 incidents during his time in prison and was classified as a high-risk prisoner. But as Smith points out in his report, high-risk prisoners are not permitted to attend rehabilitation programmes. Robertson also denied he was a sex offender. Smith says Corrections refuses to place such offenders into treatment until they accept that they have accepted their guilt. He came to the conclusion that…

“Robertson… entered prison a high-risk offender and left a high-risk offender and received practically no help, albeit of his own choosing, throughout his incarceration.”

Of his own choosing? That’s weird. His sentence planner reported in 2010:Robertson2

“Robertson stated he is willing to participate (in psychological counselling), saying ‘I just want to get out of here. I think this will help me with my board hearing’.”

As for taking part in child sex offender treatment, he stated: “I’m willing to participate because of the board.”He went on: “I don’t even need to do it. I’m not like that [not a child sex offender].”

On drug and alcohol treatment, he is recorded as saying: “I don’t need it, but I’m willing to do it to stay out of jail. I’d climb Mt Everest to stay out.” And of participating in violence treatment, he said: “I would do it because I’ve got a bit of an anger problem. A programme would help because I’ve never had anything [any programmes] before, and nothing else helps.”

Despite this apparent willingness, Corrections did not let him see a psychologist until June 2012, more than 14 months later. They had seven sessions together. Mel Smith wrote:

“The psychologist reported that Robertson was enthusiastic about getting treatment and eager to participate in the sessions. He completed all the activities asked of him between sessions (and) found he had tried to implement suggested behavioural strategies in daily prison life.”

So Robertson wanted help and was ‘enthusiastic about getting treatment’. But after the seventh session, the psychologist recommended a break of three to four months so that Robertson could demonstrate he was able to practice these strategies before scheduling further sessions. Smith then wrote:

“The inquiry could find no record the psychologist or anyone else from Corrections’ psychological services followed up on whether he had succeeded or failed in putting these new skills into practice, or whether he wanted to participate in additional sessions with the same eagerness previously demonstrated. Robertson had no more sessions while in prison.”

So instead of concluding it was Corrections fault that Robertson received so little help, Smith got out a bucket of whitewash and claimed that…

“Corrections made reasonable efforts to … provide him with suitable rehabilitation.”

Based on the information in his own report, that statement is simply not true. Robertson was in prison for eight years and had a grand total of seven counselling sessions.  Seven sessions in eight years. That doesn’t add up either, does it?

Other high risk offenders

WilsonRobertson is not the only high-risk offender who has not been allowed to attend rehabilitation in prison. Stewart Murray Wilson (referred to by the media as the beast of Blenheim) was a prolific sex offender and was in prison for 17 years before he was released in 2015. He saw a psychologist only four times and Corrections also failed to put him into a sex offender’s programme because he denied his offending.

BurtonGraeme Burton (right), a known drug addict, was in prison for 13 years, but was never required to attend drug treatment, either in prison or on release. Six months after he was released in 2006, he killed Karl Kuchenbecker. The then chief executive of Corrections, Barry Matthews had the gall to declare “There’s no blood on my hands”.

BellWilliam Bell (left) is another drug addict and high-risk offender who never attended any rehabilitation. A few months after he was released in 2001, he murdered three people and left Susan Couch with permanent injuries. Corrections tried to avoid taking any responsibility for anything, but ten years later accepted that they had failed to monitor Bell properly in the community and paid Susan Couch $300,000.

Blessie’s husband, Antonio Gotingco, seems to be following in Susan Couch’s footsteps. He wants to sue Corrections for its poor management of Tony Robertson and has started a Givealittle page asking for donations. Maybe that will add up to something (currently $144,000). If nothing else, perhaps it will highlight the need for Corrections to take more responsibility and accept that high risk offenders like Tony Robertson, Graeme Burton, William Bell and Stewart Wilson need to attend rehabilitation in prison.

Serco leaves prisoners to fight among themselves

Bevan HanlonIn early October, Bevan Hanlon, president of the Corrections Association (left), said 12 out of 20 new recruits employed at Mt Eden prison in the past two months had left their jobs because of security fears. Then last week, he  said staff at the prison sometimes leave up to 45 prisoners in a unit on their own with no supervision and as a result “ prisoners are assaulting each other and beating each other up.”  Hanlon says many fights go unreported because “no guards are there to see them happen… prisoners are being left to fight among themselves”.  

This reinforces comments made a year ago by former prison inmate, Martin Lyttleton (below), who said violence was rife in prison, especially in the Auckland Central Remand Prison (now MECF) where gang members seemed to be in charge.  Martin Lyttleton

“They were running fight clubs in the mainstream units, so a lot of people were getting bashed up… In some cases the guards were actually sanctioning assaults by inmates on other inmates”, he said. “There were few programmes or rehabilitation courses, and so the inmates were bored and looked for trouble”

“The guards were actually sanctioning assaults by inmates on other inmates.  They were conscious that an assault was going to take place. [They would] leave the unit, the assault would occur, then they would come back into the unit afterwards and it was discussed amongst the inmates that it was a guard-sanction assault.”


Mt EdenThe Mt Eden Correctional Facility (left) is operated by Serco, the British consortium with a history of dodgy management practices.  In July this year, the Guardian newspaper reported that the Serco-run Thameside facility has been rated as one of the three worst prisons in Britain. A month later the Guardian reported that police had been called in to investigate fraud allegations against Serco for overcharging the Government by as much as £50million to operate a contract to transport prisoners to and from courts across London and East Anglia. In September, Guardian Australia revealed that key performance reports from Serco and G4S, the companies that run detention centres on Australia’s mainland, and the regional processing centre on Manus Island, do not exist. The missing reports are supposed to monitor the welfare, care, security, health and medical, counselling and education of detainees.

In New Zealand, the Government’s contract with Serco still leaves the Corrections Department with ultimate responsibility to ensure that custodial sentences are “administered in a safe, secure, humane and effective manner”.  The Department is  required by the Corrections Act to ensure that all prison facilities are “operated in accordance with rules set out in the Act… and are based on the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”


It’s not just Mt Eden prison which has problems with violence.  The reality is that Corrections struggles to provide a safe environment in any of its prisons. In the last five years the number of prisoners attacking other inmates in New Zealand has nearly doubled.  In 2011, 862 inmates were assaulted by other prisoners, 48 of which were classified as ‘serious assaults’.   Jason Palmer In 2006/07, there were only 27 ‘serious’ incidents.  In 2010/11 there were also 241 assaults on prison staff and in May 2010, Jason Palmer (right) became the first prison officer to be killed in a New Zealand prison after he was punched by inmate Latu Kepu.

In a media interview in April 2012, Corrections general manager of prison services, Jeanette Burns, claimed the number of serious assaults on prison staff had dropped dramatically since 1995 and said fewer prisoners were requesting voluntary segregation to avoid violence and gang related problems in mainstream prison units.  That’s managerial spin. The reality is that Corrections revised its policy on voluntary segregation in 2011 and implemented a new screening process which allows staff to decline prisoners’ requests to be placed on segregation.

Ms Burn’s assertions were also challenged in October 2012 by new figures showing serious assaults on prison guards have, in fact, tripled in the past five years. During the year to the end of June, 18 staff were seriously assaulted – up from just six in 2007. Springhill fireEven the Auditor General said the number of serious assaults is “well above the expected level”.  Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults were 85% higher than expected and prisoner-on-staff assaults were 160% higher than expected. Much of the violence is gang related including the eight hour riot at Spring Hill prison in June this year in which buildings were set on fire (left) and three guards were left with broken bones. Repairs were expected to take six months and to cost millions of dollars.

Corrections perceptions

It should come as no surprise that violent assaults in prison have impacted on officers’ perceptions of their personal safety. In 2011, only 69% of staff reported feeling safe working in prison.  Nearly half believed they could not report unethical behaviour by other officers without fear of reprisal, or believed that Corrections would not hold officers accountable for such behaviour.  Radio New Zealand’s revelations suggest that staff at the Serco-run prison feel even more vulnerable than officers in Corrections’ prisons.

But the Department always puts a positive spin on things.  In May Corrections reported that Serco was outperforming most of the state prisons in comparative tables which measure one prison against another. The tables include the number of assaults occurring in each prison – the number being reported to be more precise – and Serco’s performance was rated as “exceptional”. What does that say about all the other prisons? The reality is that there is nothing exceptional about anything in the New Zealand prison system. Only Scandinavian countries can make such claims.

Management at Corrections are exceptionally good at just one thing – they have an extraordinary ability to spin the facts and turn a blind eye to the truth; and the truth, according to Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, is that our prisons are ‘a moral and fiscal failure’.