Despite claims that Karam suffered from depression, only two witnesses in the retrial made suggestions that he was depressed. Both these were educational psychologists, who only saw Robin on occasion. Against these allegations were a number of witnesses including his co-teacher, the head of the board of trustees, the relief teacher and a co-participant in the choir Robin belonged to who was also a nurse, all of whom did not consider that Robin was depressed. The manual for a diagnosis of depression includes a number of factors that do not exist in Robin's circumstances at the time. Depression normally affects attendance at work but Robin was working full time, it normally affects energy levels, but, along with working, Robin was active at weekends, and his last weekend was an example during which he repaired the roof and took his children on an outing. A diagnosis of depression requires at least 5 of 9 symptoms but the most that witnesses can ascribe to Robin are two of them. Robin may have been depressed, but the evidence is not sufficient to make it fact.
1.1. David & Goliath p43 “The father is therefore being exposed for incestuous behaviour over a long period of time. He panics overnight and kills the rest of his family and himself while David is on the paper run. This fits in with the police’s initial impression of the situation and provides an explanation as to how somebody could have become so mentally deranged as to commit such a horror.”
1.2. David & Goliath p57 ”In the light of information now available, a significant factor for her in achieving a new, healthier lifestyle was dealing with the issue of the relationship she had with her father. This matter was certainly coming to a head at the time of the murders, and was more than likely the predominant force behind Robin’s depression.”
1.3. David & Goliath p198: “We know that Robin by any standards had been living a humiliating and decrepit life over the past few years.”
1.4. David & Goliath p217 “His [David’s] very disturbed father was at home..
1.5. David & Goliath p221 “Robin Bain had an overwhelming motive, was in a degenerative mental state, and precipitative events in relation to those matters took place that very weekend.
1.6. One Angry Man: Karam says that “we now know that Robin was psychotic”, but the only new evidence since the trial was that Robin is clinically depressed.
1.7. Bain and Beyond p19 “There is substantial evidence that Robin was in a state of severe mental deterioration at the time of the tragedies.”
1.8. Bain and Beyond p122 “A number of statements confirming Robin Bain’s highly distorted state of mind.”
1.9. Trial by Ambush, p418: “A man said by his peers to have lost the ability to act rationally.”
1.10. Trial by Ambush, p419: “A man who ultimately succumbed to the combination of factors that causes men to take the ultimate revenge on life in the most inexplicable manner; by destroying his life and the lives of those he loves in an act of what we call familicide.”
Karam repeatedly states Robin’s alleged clinical depression as a fact.
Robin: Evidence of Depression
2. Cyril Wilden. In giving evidence at the 2009 retrial, Cyril Wilden expresses an opinion that Robin Bain was depressed. Wilden is not a clinical psychologist and did not do a clinical assessment or Robin, nor did Robin volunteer himself for treatment. Page 2863 of the retrial transcripts:
Q. – and during your visits to Taieri Beach School, what were you then observing of Robin Bain’s condition and how he presented himself. Can you describe that to the members of the jury please?
A. Um, when I approached the school I found Robin to be looking gaunt and not a well person. Physically I thought he wasn’t well, that was the first thing I noticed and my impression was that he had some sort of communication problem because it was difficult to engage him and talk about the issues that I wanted to talk about. He was quite happy to either not talk at all or talk about things that he was concerned about. So I was concerned about his physical appearance, his demeanour, some of the things he said just didn’t sound right and I was concerned about the state of the school that I was sort of picking up on, it was rather chaotic and disorganised.
Q. I’ll come to that in a moment. Just dealing with Robin you’ve spoken about his physical condition, what about any mental appearance or whatever, what was your description or feeling about that?
A. I felt that he had some deep-seated emotional problems that really did concern me, I picked them up because I’d remember I’d been working around schools for 33 years, I was 53, 54 years of age, so and I’d done a lot of assessment for Family Court work for years and years so I could pick up pretty well, I think, whether a person had deep emotional problems, and I could see he had deep emotional problems, that struck me. And my concern was how to help him and that was my dilemma I was stuck on that side.
Q. And as to his state of mind, did you reach any conclusions?
A. Well, reflected in the way the school was not organised and run well, I thought he must have other problems, personal problems and so on that may be impacting on how he was coping with the classroom, the demands of running a school, even though at a small country school.
Q. Have you had to deal with stress or depression in your career with teachers and children?
A. Many times.
Q. Can you assess whether Robin was under stress or depression at all?
A. I'm quite sure he had the, as far as I was concerned, many symptoms of being under stress and that was in the state of the school office and so on, which didn’t – it wasn’t well organised which reflected, I think, on his state of mind and he really only wanted to talk about limited topics when the needs were greater so, it was difficult to really zero in on what I saw were his emotional and personal and professional needs.
Q. What about depression?
A. Depression. My abiding impression was that he was suffering from some sort of reactive depression or situational depression.
Q. What does that mean please?
A. It means when you're under episodes of pressure, stress, strain whatever, you have these depressive episodes that’s short-term, which you usually recover from, but there's also adjustment depression where it may be a more pervasive problem and based on more complex background circumstances of the person and I wasn’t sure which it was, but because he was so good with music and computers and so on I – when I saw his eccentricities, we’ll put it that way, his idiosyncrasies I thought maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt that he may not be as emotionally disturbed as I – look, so I was weighing that up a lot.
Later Wilden said the following:
Q. During ’93 if he visited you at your office, did you observe any of these concerns or mental depression or whatever it is, then?
A. Um, I was concerned about, um, I guess his demeanour, his appearance, um, I did think he was, there was an odour with him there, but out at the school of course, I had – that was another sign that I was most concerned about, that he seemed to have a strong body odour.
Q. What was his appearance like –
A. His appearance – he was rather unkempt for a principal of a school, was my um, impression.
Q. How had that changed from the times when you used to know him?
A. Oh, he was more dapper and finely dressed, years earlier, so that was again another indication to me that he was under stress and strain and could well be clinically depressed.
Richard Orpen Matches states. That is my full name, I live at – and he supplies his street address in Dunedin and his home phone number. I am a registered psychologist and my practice is called the Bell Hill Psychology Centre. I am speaking to Constable Cameron of the Dunedin CIB regarding my association with Margaret and Robin Bain. Back in the early ‘70s I worked as a lecturer at the Kindergarten Teacher’s College in Dunedin. Margaret Bain was also a lecturer there and that is how I got to meet her. Through her I also met her husband Robin. I met Robin often after I had got to know him as we were both into education. I also got to see Robin and Margaret together from time to time. They were both different type people, almost opposites. She was an extrovert, often loud in her speech and her behaviour. She gave the impression of not being aware of the impact of her comments on other people. She gave me the impression of gaining pleasure from the embarrassment she often caused other people via her comments. She targeted people that would be offended by her comments. An example of this would be at work. She would discuss sexual matters in front of the head of the department who was a middle-aged spinster. In those days, these issues were quite delicate matters but Margaret seemed to derive some sort of pleasure from embarrassing the head of the department by bringing these things up. She was very accurate in summing up people, but once she knew about them she would use this to her own means. I think Margaret had a very poor image of herself. She was unclean, her personal hygiene was not good, her body odour was quite overpowering at times in a small building such as we worked in. One of the older students made mention of it to her one day. Margaret took it very much to heart, but did change her hygiene habits a bit after this, but still occasionally slipped up. I got the impression she would be a very possessive woman under the surface, especially with her children. I thought back then that, look out when she has children, they’re in for a hard time. When I read the paper today I saw the ages of the children. I thought to myself, yes, the kids haven't got away from their mother and that they were still at home. Robin on the other hand was a very introverted person, who was sensitive, intense and serious, but quite a pleasant person. I spoke with Robin quite a few times. I got the impression from speaking to him that their relationship wasn’t great. It was almost a dependency rather than a good marriage. She, on the other hand, spoke of her husband as a naughty child. Almost like, there he goes again. She was certainly the dominant person in the relationship and when I saw both of them together, on the odd time, such as when he came to the college to pick her up, she would be-little him in front of others. He would just take it and didn’t say anything. I could tell from his face that he felt those comments deeply. I saw no evidence of any clinical signs of illness in those days. They both had the same interests, in that they were interested in music and things like that. I met Margaret about a year, or sooner, ago in Dunedin. It was only a short meeting in the street and we only spoke for a couple of minutes. I asked her how things were. She said, “Terrible.” She mentioned something about Robin and said something like, “If I could shoot him I would”, then she laughed and she closed off the conversation on that subject and we parted shortly after. I found out from a friend who was a teacher that since arriving back in Dunedin that Margaret and Robin had split up. I can remember seeing Robin Bain on a motorbike about a year or two ago near Brighton. I mentioned this to a group of friends I was talking to about this and the fact that he looked a bit dishevelled. He had an old, grey army coat on and looked terrible. I mentioned this to a group of friends about a year later. I can remember someone saying that he was staying at the schoolhouse at Taieri Mouth and was going home in the weekends, or something like that. I raised my eyebrows at this comment, as I was a bit surprised. That’s when some person, I can't remember who, said something like, “I think Margaret has someone else in the background”, or something like that. I didn’t take too much notice of this. I didn’t know whether this person was sure of this or just said it off-handedly, not knowing their facts. I saw Robin at the last Regent Theatre book sale, this year I think. I spoke to him for about half an hour. We talked about things in general. He asked about what I was doing. What I had been doing and things like that, but not about himself. He was a very private person. He liked me and seemed very pleased to see me. At the end of the conversation, as he was leaving, I can remember something that he said that hit home. I asked him how the family was. He said something like, “It’s a real battle bringing up children in this world.” He then stood up, smiled, then left. I got the impression that he wanted to come and speak to me about things. He didn’t look good. He looked haggard, grey and depressed, much older than his age.”
3.2 It is apparent from the statement of Matches that Robin had lived with an overbearing spouse for the entire marriage and therefore could have adjusted to it. The psychological term for adjustment to a disadvantageous situation is learned helplessness. In this condition the sufferer learns that there is nothing they can do to change their situation. Human relationships are complex and one has to take care about making any generalizations about Robin and Margaret’s relationship.
4. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version IV which was relevant at the time of the 2009 retrial, a diagnosis of clinical depression requires at least five of the following nine symptoms to apply. One of the symptoms must be depressed mood or loss of interest.
4.1. Depressed mood.
4.2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities.
4.3. Signiifcant (>5% body weight) weight loss or gain, or increase or decrease in appetite.
4.4. Insomnia or hypersomnia.
4.5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
4.6. Fatigue or loss of energy.
4.7. Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt.
4.8. Diminished concentration or indecisiveness.
4.9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
In addition, the symptoms cause significant distress and impairment in social, occupational or other areas of function and are not caused by drugs
5. Cyril Wilden only supplies one symptom in his testimony, that being the appearance of depression. Other witnesses, including the co-teacher supply another which is that Robin appeared cadaverous and not well fed. The diagnosis also requires significant distress or impairment in social and/or occupational areas but Robin was still working full time. The only other evidence Wilden supplies is that Robin’s office was untidy and disorganized which is not a recognized symptom of depression. There is no evidence that his mental functions were disorganized, that he was mentally incapable of carrying on with his work, had diminished interest in life, was having trouble sleeping or was having negative thoughts about himself.
6.1. From Trial by Ambush, p419: “A man who was a very experienced school teacher, who sent out a school newsletter just days before the tragedy which included three stories written by his pupils about family slayings and prefaced them with a warning that they may disturb.”
6.2 The stories published are not a reflection of Robin Bain’s state of mind. As testified by his co-teacher, Robin simply did not edit the stories they wrote (retrial extracts p 2221):
Q. He sent out the newsletters of the children?
Q. Did he edit the stories before they went out?
A. I can't imagine that he would do that, no, he was very much that the kids work should go out as is.
6.3 From the evidence given by the co-teacher, Robin’s teaching style was very much pupil-centric and based on creativity and spontaneity rather than rote learning and discipline. Retrial extracts P2211
Q. In terms of – you mentioned that the children were learning about computers, how did he assist in that regard, was it always during school hours or was it afterwards?
A. Both, he was always on the computer when I got to work and always on the computer when I left work and he ran a sort of a classroom where you might have one person working on geography in the corner over in one area and another person doing English in another area and then he would be with somebody on the computer, it was – as long as you got your work done it didn’t really matter how you did it.
7. The education system tends to support the more disciplined approach and so all its agents such as Cyril Wilden and fellow school principals would have found Robin Bain’s style of teaching slightly alien. In addition he had spent fifteen years of his teaching life in Papua and New Guinea, a nation where the education system is not nearly as rigorous as New Zealand. Robin’s style, based on the evidence, is similar to the Rudolph Steiner system. Rudolph Steiner was a German educationalist who created a system of education for underprivileged children brought up in industrialized urban areas of Germany. There are Rudolph Steiner schools in Hawkes Bay and Christchurch. Children are encouraged to be creative and spontaneous are given an unstructured learning environment and are not driven to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. The pupils at Taieri Beach Primary were largely from low income families. Robin Bain may have been happier teaching in the Rudolph Steiner system rather than the mainstream. Not editing children’s stories is compatible with such a philosophy.
8. From the evidence supplied, at the time of the murders, Robin was dealing with marital problems, the stress of building a house and learning new Education Department requirements. It could be that he was suffering from depression and some witnesses give evidence of an apparent deteriorating condition, however, he could also have been suffering a medical condition. Without proper assessment and diagnosis it is unsafe to make assumptions about a person’s health. In 1993, Robin was off work for three weeks while suffering from an ear infection. It is possible that he was going deaf, at least in one ear, a condition that causes people to become less communicative and willing to engage socially, page 2241 of retrial transcripts:
Q. Do you recall a time when Robin got sick?
A. Yeah. He was unwell, we had an ERO visit coming up and we were all feeling a bit stressed about the ERO visit because there was quite a lot to do and getting the place ready for ERO visits, and just prior he was unwell and wasn’t at school and he was off actually for three weeks which was very difficult and –
Q. Did you know what was wrong with him?
A. Yes he had an inner ear infection and was unable to be at school for three weeks. He was very unwell.
9. A person suffering from depression is no more likely to commit murder than any other person in the population. Due to the fatigue and loss of energy that accompanies depression, such strenuous activity as that involved in having to overcome Stephen Bain’s evident fight for life is not normally associated with someone suffering from depression.
10. Many witnesses in the retrial gave positive accounts of Robin which do not fit the statements made by Karam, such as Darlene Thomson, the co-teacher at Taieri Beach School, Dorothie Duthie, the chairperson of the school board of trustees, Christine Harrex, a relieving teacher at the school, William Christie, who belonged to the same choir as Robin and Ingrid Dunckley another educational psychologist.
10.1 Darlene Thomson, who was the teacher at Taieri Beach School where Robin was principal, and who worked alongside him every day of the week from about September the previous year when she started there had nothing but positive things to say. From p2219, Darlene did not think he was depressed:
Q. And you just don’t know do you whether deep down he was very depressed at the time?
A. Well he was always very happy and cheery and helpful in class so, no the Robin I knew wasn’t depressed.
Q. We all know suddenly that people suddenly commit suicide and everyone’s shattered because they’ve never seen it coming, haven't we? We all know of examples of that.
A. Yes I've heard of that. I don’t think that’s in Robin’s case though.
She makes comments like p2209:
Q. What was your impression of both as a person and his teaching?
A. Well, I thought he was a lovely man, different, he – we both had different ways of teaching. He was very, he made the most of every moment let’s say, so in the summer if it was a fine day we might – Taieri Beach School is right on the beach. We would cross the paddock and go to the beach because you know Robin thought you could learn as well outside as you can inside, you know, he always made sure that the kids even though they were isolated got the best of everything. So we did an awful lot of telephone conferencing with a school called Allenton School.
And on p2212:
Q. You said there were some challenges in the children, who were part of the classes, how did he deal with those situations, how did he, if you like, keep the children under control?
A. Well I think he was a very loving man and I think we all realised a lot of them came from dysfunctional families, or perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but perhaps not your typical mum, dad and two kid families, and he just showed them a lot of respect, a lot of love. I mean today, if – we all would put our hands round kids when they were crying then, you know, you would put your arm round them and that just happened all the time, whether it was me, whether it was Robin, whether it was Isabelle, I mean it's just what you did, that’s the kind of kids – they need nurturing, they needed loving and – and when he was cross with them he would roll his eyes, he would sort of hang his head and he would say, “You’ve disappointed me” you know, sort of thing. I never once heard him raise his voice and if you can picture a two teacher school, the door between our classes was never shut, ever, so, yeah, I never heard it.
10.2 Dorothie Duthie, who was the chairperson of the Board of Trustees at Taieri Beach School from 1989 to 1993 and who had regular contact with Robin up until the end of 1993 and less regularly in 1994 (p2228 of retrial transcripts):
Q. And between or during 1989 to 1993 were you the chairperson at Taieri Beach School?
A. That’s right.
Q. And was that the Board of Trustees period throughout that period or not?
A. Yes, I was originally on the school committee and when it combined to the Board of Trustees I carried on in that role.
Q. And were you in that role in 1991 when Mr Bain was appointed principal at the school?
A. I was.
Q. And what sort of interaction would you have with him during those early years for a start?
A. Um, quite a lot. It was a busy time and I spent a lot of time with Robin. He usually consulted me before board meetings, particularly. He had a lot of plans and ideas and yeah we spent a lot of time together. He was a colleague and later became a good friend.
Q. During the initial period, were there ideas that he spoke to you about, renovations?
A. Yes, um, the first major one was the computer education and setting up a computer system within the school. That took up a lot of time and effort and he was very innovative in getting funding from various sources including Telecom, so it was a biggie yes.
Q. And do you recall other areas of a similar innovative nature or not, at this stage?
A. Oh just things like the vegetable garden which is usual in a primary school. He was talking about building a secret garden with mazes and things like that but that didn’t eventuate.
Q. So how did you see him as a teacher and a principal?
A. Um, he was an ideas man, he didn’t like paperwork. He liked to be with the children and doing things with them, different things to give children as many opportunities and varied opportunities. That was his focus.
Q. Can you recall what decile the school was?
Q. Now you also saw him I think in a social situation from time to time when he came to your house for a meal?
A. Yes, to initially – well usually principals lived out of town and to save them going home and then coming back to the school for a board meeting, I would invite them for dinner and it was usually an opportunity to talk about things that were going to come up at the meeting anyway. So it just became a habit that Robin came to dinner on Board of Trustees nights, but he also came at other times to consult with my son who was a computer science student at the time and he was consulting John about computer matters with the system at the school.
Q. How did you find him in those situations?
A. Oh usually jovial, very witty, he was very quick on the repartee. I could never keep up with him, he always had some – some answer that cracked us up. He was very good – I had three sons and he fitted in very well with my husband and the three children at that time.
10.3 Christine Harrex, was a relief teacher who also worked half a day a week at Taieri Mouth School with Robin as principal relief. P2240 of transcripts:
Q. Were you working at the school at the time of his death?
A. Yes I was.
Q. During the period 1991 to 1994 did you get to know him?
A. Yes I did.
Q. How would you describe him?
A. Robin was a really, he was a quiet man but a gentle person a real gentlemen. He was very caring and considerate. He was very, had really, he wanted the very best for those children, and the children at Taieri Beach were often, didn’t have a broad, you know, they hadn't experienced much of life outside of Taieri Mouth and he really wanted to expand their horizons, he was really – he did good things for those children.
Q. Did you have any firsthand experience of his caring nature in terms of your own personal life?
A. Yes, prior to, at the end of 1993 our daughter had a serious car accident at – she was travelling back into Dunedin, oh no, coming home from Dunedin and her car hit a pole in a hail storm and Robin saw her car on his way back to Dunedin and stopped and he’d recognised the car and stopped and rang me to make sure that we knew about it. You know he was just so thoughtful over those weeks, she was in hospital and just forget about school, we can cope at school and then at the beginning of the next year three months later our son was teaching in Auckland and he had a serious accident too going to school. A car didn’t see him in the light and he was cycling and he was – had another accident and just the way Robin you know, he handled me that day at school when I got the news, it was really, it was very caring and he spoke to my husband first when he rang the school and he made sure the staff, the other staff gave me space and –
Q. In the school itself how did he get on with the other staff?
A. Really good, really good. We all had a – it was a very friendly, it was a nice place to work.
10.4 William Christie, who was a nurse who participated in the choir with Robin Bain did not think that Robin was depressed. Unlike Wilden, the educational psychologist, who works in education and whose main focus is children’s learning, Christie works in health and his main focus is adult health. His assessment would be every bit as good as Wilden’s. Christie had the following testimony (p2261):
Q. Throughout that period of time have you had experience with people with depression and other mental disorders?
A. I have had quite a lot of experience over that time, yes certainly meeting people’s mental needs and assisting and supporting them.
Q. Depression, is that an illness that can affect the elderly?
A. Indeed it is, in many forms. Sometimes mild depression which I think most people experience from time to time but sometimes more severely when people need therapy.
Q. And have you yourself observed over your nursing career the symptoms of the various forms of depression?
A. Yes I have.
Q. What are the symptoms of depression?
A. Well, largely a feeling of hopelessness, lack of motivation, apathy and in severe forms not wanting to face up to life’s realities.
Q. Now in 1986 did you join the Royal Dunedin Male Choir?
A. 1986, yes I did.
Q. And you remained a member until when?
A. Until I left Dunedin in 1995.
Q. Now around 1990, do you recall Robin and David Bain joining the choir?
A. I do, yes.
Q. And did you get to know them?
A. I got to know them reasonably well, I would often speak with them at our brief tea break during our weekly rehearsals.
Q. And how did Robin strike you over those three and a half, four years, as a person?
A. He was a quiet person, inclined to be fairly serious, earnest and full of goodwill. He struck me as being a supportive father in that I recall an occasion when addressing the 80 or 90 men who were in the Male Choir, explaining that David was in a musical show and that he had tickets available if anybody would like to – to have them.
Q. Throughout the period that you knew Robin, did he show to your view any signs of depression?
A. No, not at all.
Q. Now approximately two weeks prior to the death of Robin, do you recall being at a choir practice when Robin approached you to discuss something with you?
A. Yes. Either on the Monday immediately prior to his death or perhaps the Monday before that, Robin suggested to me that as he and I were the only two men in the choir who had sons also in the choir, we could work up a quartet and that would be – provide an item that we could perform. He was positive about the future and our parting words were that he would look up some music for us to work up.
Q. And sorry you may have said, what was he like about this proposal?
A. He was positive and his intention was that we would develop it and work it up.
Q. Now how does that particular event strike you in terms of a suggestion that Robin was suffering from depression?
A. Oh I think it’s quite contrary to – he was not – he didn’t display any form, symptoms of depression at that time.
Q. And why in respect of this particular event do you say that?
A. In respect of his proposal.
A. Ah, simply that I think his – his mental state has since been questioned and I felt that I had a contribution to show that as recently as two weeks before his death, he didn’t display any form of depression.
Q. In your time as being a nurse over that 40 year period, have you seen people progress into depression?
A. Yes I have. Not rapidly, depression is a mental condition which tends to gradually overwhelm people.
Q. And this proposal that Robin made to you, you said you thought it was sorry how long before his death?
A. Either one week or two weeks before he died.
10.5 Ingrid Dunckley, also an educational psychologist working for the SES had normal business communications with Robin right up to the time he died and was due to meet him on the day of his death:
Q. Did you have any contact with Taieri Beach School or the principal there?
A. I had a call from the principal on Friday the 17th. He rang me to – I was collating the teacher aid hours for the children with special needs, we allocate money for schools to get some additional support for those children, and he telephoned me to discuss the children that he required some funding for. So we discussed the criteria for funding and we discussed which children, yeah.
Q. When you say Friday the 17th, of June 1994?
Q. Do you recall what type of conversation it was in general terms?
A. A very pleasant conversation, a very normal sort of discussion, we laughed, I don’t recall what we laughed about but we did laugh and – yeah it was just very normal, pleasant conversation.
Q. As a result of the telephone call on Friday the 17th of June was anything else arranged?
A. Yes, we – he hadn’t, Mr Bain hadn’t collated all the information, so he was going to bring it into me on Monday morning at the office, the information in relation to the particular children that he wanted help for.
Q. When you say the Monday morning, the following Monday morning, the 20th of June?
Q. Do you know what time that appointment had been made for or not?
A. No I don’t, no.
11. In general those people who worked with Robin on a daily or weekly basis had positive things to say. Those people who worked in positions of authority who saw him from time to time tended to have negative things to say about his performance as a teacher and his communicability.