Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Bain: I wanted life in opera

Teacher said he could be as successful as international star Jonathan Lemalu.

David Bain became engaged to Christchurch woman Liz Davies after his acquittal in 2009. Photo / APN
David Bain became engaged to Christchurch woman Liz Davies after his acquittal in 2009. Photo / APN

David Bain believes he might have become an international opera star on a par with Jonathan Lemalu.

He made the comparison in his claim for compensation after spending 13 years in prison on five counts of murder, for which he was acquitted in a 2009 retrial.

He said when he first started singing lessons in 1992 his teacher told him he had a wonderful voice and could one day create a valuable career for himself.

"I have been told that I had the potential to have a career as successful as the New Zealand opera singer Jonathan Lemalu," he wrote in an eight-page affidavit, under the sub-heading "loss of earnings and future opportunities".

Lemalu, who like Mr Bain was also born in Dunedin, was booked up two years in advance and sang all over the world, Mr Bain said.

Mr Bain was studying for a degree in music and drama in June 1994 when he was charged with the murder of his parents, Robin Bain and Margaret Cullen Bain, two sisters, Arawa and Laniet, and brother, Stephen, in the family home at Every St in Dunedin.

He said he had hoped to pursue either a performance-based career or, with his family's strong teaching background, a teaching position.

"Since my arrest in June 1994, I have not taken part in any form of musical expression as the trauma of the events I experienced has taken the joy of music away from me.

"The wrongful conviction of me and the time I spent in prison meant that the life I was planning has gone out the window. I feel as though I lost the major earning years of my life."

Mr Bain's affidavit was appended to the report of retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie. He found that on the balance of probabilities Mr Bain was innocent and recommended compensation. But his report has been rejected by Justice Minister Judith Collins as containing extensive and serious errors. The affidavit covers Mr Bain's personal experiences in prisons including long periods of depression and thoughts of suicide, and the difficulties he encountered outside prison because he was so well known, including making friends or getting a girlfriend. It was written seven months after the acquittal in 2009 and he has since become engaged to Christchurch woman Liz Davies.

But he said that from the time of his release on bail in 2007 he found "the hardships of life far greater than he had imagined in prison".

"Everywhere I go, and in everything I do, I am always recognised and either comments are made or people question me."

It had happened wherever he had gone in New Zealand and he had to find some way to deal with it.

"I was not prepared for this when I left prison."

The knowledge that he could not create a normal life had been depressing.

"It is not a comfortable thing being known for something as traumatic as the events I have suffered through. The media coverage has meant that the New Zealand public know a great deal about these events and my personal life."

Mr Bain also laments the loss of personal possessions such as diving gear, books, videos of the shows he had appeared in and recordings of his singing.

He wrote that his murder convictions had also taken away his inheritance: "My dad had a beautiful collection of string instruments and mum had her pottery.

"These items are only a tiny amount of the items they collected during their lives and all have been lost to me."

David Bain on life in prison

"When I was first imprisoned I was put on suicide watch which involved the prison officers turning on my cell light to check on me every 15 minutes [which] effectively became a means of torture."

"I suffered constant migraines, depression and loneliness."

"Shortly after being imprisoned in the east wing of Christchurch Men's Prison, I was assaulted by another prisoner and left with two teeth smashed in and a bruised and cut face."

"The separation from the world is the worst punishment the state can impose."

"I struggled to hold on to my sanity and underwent over eight years of counselling."

"There were times when I considered giving up the fight and ending the suffering by taking my life."

- NZ Herald

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