As the euphoria over David Bain's quashed convictions and subsequent bail abates, it's interesting that a Herald-DigiPoll survey reveals 59.5 per cent of people polled believe Bain is innocent, and 57.4 per cent believe a retrial should not proceed. Last time I checked, guilt or innocence in this country is not based on the success or failure of a public relations exercise - making someone "accessible to the media" - what Joe Karam concedes he's done for Bain. Fair enough. He genuinely believes Bain is innocent; he wants the public to agree.
But it is wrong for Karam to claim Bain's support has grown because people no longer see a "lanky, nerdy, awful-jersey-wearing, pimply-faced psycho police have tried to portray" (Karam's words). Guilt or innocence is not determined by how nice, or horrible, a suspect appears to be. There is no gain for Bain in Karam's continued denigration of the police.
This week I collected from the Solicitor-General's office the Crown submissions to the Privy Council - 164 pages of grim copy, photographs included. The first thing to strike me was that in the celebration which followed Bain's release, the fact that five people died in a most horrible, gruesome manner was overlooked. Stephen Bain, especially, went through unimaginable terror as he fought his murderer before being half-strangled with his own T-shirt and incapacitated. He was only 14. Arawa, 19 years old, woke before she was slaughtered, possibly from hearing Stephen screaming, and was shot through the top of the head while praying or pleading for her life. These horrible details must still haunt the remaining Cullen-Bain extended family, but they - along with Solicitor-General David Collins, QC - have retained a dignified silence in the face of pack-mentality journalism.
Which is understandable, but unfortunate, because those who choose not to comment inevitably come off second best. Michael Reed, QC, and Karam have readily given interviews, with the latter skilfully guiding Bain through the media throngs. So, with too few exceptions, journalists have thus far reported only Bain's arguments to the Privy Council.
The public could be forgiven for thinking only the appellant's legal team presented fresh evidence.
That is not so. The Crown submissions also contain fresh allegations, which make fascinating reading. For instance, the broken glasses found in Stephen Bain's bedroom which belonged to Margaret Bain were known, according to the Crown, to have been used by David Bain up until two days before the murders. They were of no use to Robin Bain, according to the Crown.
There are fresh allegations that the murderer may have used a white cloth to wipe the rifle and/or to cover Laniet Bain's head before she was shot. That cloth has never been found.
But one of the most important fresh allegations from the Crown was Stephen Bain's blood on the curtains in the alcove from where, the Crown alleged, David Bain shot his father. The Crown alleges the rifle was marked with Stephen's blood.
For Robin Bain to commit suicide, he had to hide behind the curtain and shoot himself kneeling on the floor in the room, sideways through the head, holding a rifle made even longer by the attachment of a silencer. There are additional fresh submissions from the Crown that Robin Bain's head wound was not a contact or near-contact wound, further weakening the case for suicide. I just can't understand how Robin Bain could have woken up at his usual time of around 6.30am, get dressed, fetch the paper, shoot five members of his family, clean up some of the blood, change into his school-teaching clothes and put his bloody garments in the washing machine, possibly leave the property to dispose of the white cloth, type a note on the computer, then kneel down and shoot himself, all as a 58-year-old with a full bladder, and all by the time David returned from his paper run at - he says - precisely 6.42/6.43 am. Furthermore, by covering his tracks, Robin would have known suspicion would immediately focus on David, the one son he said should be spared.
Of course, none of this proves anything. I don't know if David Bain is guilty or innocent, but the public deserves to hear all the issues, not just selective propositions from one side. The Privy Council ordered a retrial (final decision resting with the Crown) to allow a jury to consider the evidence and the defence to challenge it. The defence team objects on the grounds that a retrial would be "cruel", the public doesn't support it, and it would cost taxpayers $4 million in legal aid. Already nearly $700,000 in legal aid has gone on Bain's defence, not including legal costs in the Privy Council.
Justice is expensive, but it's not a popularity contest. And five people were murdered. What can be more cruel than that?