Joe Hendren

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bain evidence: hearing what you want to hear

In the forth form* I had a memorable music teacher called Mr Williams. He looked and sounded like a mad professor, strode around the class with exaggerated movements and told risque jokes. Which of course endeared him to most forth formers (year 10). Mr Williams was a lot of fun.

One day he rigged up an ancient reel to real tape machine so we could attempt to answer a famous question in musical folklore. Does playing Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven backwards reveal satanic messages? While it is true that guitarist Jimmy Page is quite the fan of Alistair Crowley, the fact that this conspiracy was uncovered by the American Christian right ought to make most people run to the church of high skepticism.

On first listen it sounded to most like the strange groaning of something being played backwards. Mr Williams then suggested what some of the words might be, and where to hear them. Around half the class exclaimed 'oh yeah' while the arch sceptics laughed and said it was all nonsense.

That in a nutshell is what happened with the tape of David Bain's emergency call. The police claimed he said 'I shot the prick'. On hearing the tape on the news tonight I am certain I could hear less of the accused words in the Bain tape than I could hear in the backwards Stairway all those years ago. It was simply meaningless garble. The NZ Herald reports.

"...the words had not been recognised in the first trial in 1994 and did not form part of the transcript. Nor had the ambulance officer who took the call heard them. When the ambulance officer was again played the tape after the police detective said the words were there, he had heard "I shot the prick, I shot" and said he was "stunned that I hadn't heard the words previously."

Just as the Christian right had a reason to go after Led Zeppelin, the police had reasons to 'want' to find something to convict their 'man'. Its significant that some of the people advising the police on the case told them not to use it - no doubt they saw as as simply crap evidence that was only going to damage the police case in the eyes of the judiciary. Which it did. Should it have been suppressed? Perhaps the judiciary were trying to help the police save face, as the police have done precious little to help themselves in their conduct of the Bain case. Chief Justice Sian Elias said the evidence was not relevant nor reliable.

This highlights a key problem with the police investigation. The police decided early on that Bain was guilty. So much so, they didn't even bother to collect evidence from the scene that would suggest otherwise. It sounds like a case of Groupthink amongst the police - a similar rationalised conformity in decision making lay at the heart of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Evidence of the abuse of Laniet by her father gave Robin Bain a strong motive - but the police failed to investigate this option properly. I am inclined to believe Robin was involved somehow, but without the full potential evidence we will never know for sure. It is also possible a proper investigation may have uncovered evidence to indicate Robin's innocence.

So in essence, the police investigation failed the entire family.

PS: A severe lack of critical thinking was also evident with the decisions of our major media outlets to run this as the major news story with headlines like 'I shot the prick' - the next time they criticise the blogosphere for promoting dodgy claims in an irresponsible fashion they deserve to be mocked.

* slight edit - I think I Mr Williams was our third form music teacher, rather than the forth form. It was a few years ago now!

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