Berrymans say PM has abandoned them

Keith and Margaret Berryman say the Prime Minister has turned her back on them as they continue their battle against the New Zealand Army.

The Berrymans are suing the New Zealand Army for about $4.5 million 12 years after beekeeper Ken Richards died when his truck fell through an army-built bridge leading to their King Country farm.

Mr Berryman told the Wanganui Chronicle Prime Minister Helen Clark had abandoned them.

"She said the charges should never have been laid; now we don't hear anything from her. She's turned."

He said he was "burnt out" by the ordeal but would carry on fighting.

"There's never been a question it wouldn't continue," he said.

"It's taken 12 years off an elderly couple's life, destroyed our business and crippled our life's work.

"I'll get energy from somewhere and won't give in," he said.

The Berryman's lawyer, Rob Moodie, said he had filed the damages suit in the High Court at Wellington last week and expected it to be served on the Solicitor-General in the coming week.

The suit alleged negligence, breach of contract and misfeasance by the army, which built the bridge leading to the farm in 1986.

Dr Moodie said his statement of claim alleged negligent breaches of duty and care by the army in relation to the materials it approved for the bridge's construction, and design and construction errors.

The Berrymans were charged by the Occupational Safety and Health division of the Department of Labour in connection with the death Mr Richards, but the charges were thrown out of court.

Taumarunui coroner Tim Scott blamed the Berrymans for not maintaining the bridge.

But since Dr Moodie took over the case in 2004, it has emerged that the Defence Force kept information from the coroner that laid some of the blame with the army engineers who designed and built the bridge as a training exercise.

The Solicitor-General has declined four applications by the Berrymans for a new inquest.

Mr Moodie said he had sought a review from the High Court into the Solicitor-General's refusal to grant a rehearing of the inquest

The Solicitor-General, acting for the army, was moving to strike out the application, with the matter to be heard at the High Court in Wellington on May 10.

On June 26, the Court of Appeal was to hear an appeal by the Berrymans against a decision to award the army $10,000 in costs against them last year.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the government had already made an offer of compensation to the Berrymans and it had not been withdrawn.

"It's up to them whether or not they accept or reject it. Nothing's changed.

"The government has made an offer of compensation to the Berrymans and it's up to them to consider that," he said.

- NZPA

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