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Trial by ambush : the prosecutions of David Bain – by Joe Karam

March 4, 2012

Reviewed by Natalie

In my opinion, Joe Karam’s latest book is the definitive account of the Bain case. Despite the dry legal jargon, he manages to explain the case in a clear and easy to understand manner. Every single aspect of the case is discussed, from beginning to end, and by the end, Karam conclusively answers the question of who really killed Robin, Margaret, Arawa, Stephen, & Laniet Bain.

Both the first trial and the re-trial are presented very thoroughly. The full background of the legal cases is revealed, including evidence, and the behaviour of the defence, prosecution and police is considered.  Verbatim testimony is included, in part.

The new evidence presented at the re-trial is discussed, plus a re-examination of old evidence with corrected and up-to-date forensic information, and verbatim reporting of some revealing cross-examinations of the police. A description of familicide and psychological evidence relating to Robin and David is also given.

This book  illustrates  that only the evidence that supported the prosecution theory was presented to the first jury, and some information that would have been beneficial to David was not disclosed to the defence then.  For instance, Karam reveals that Robin Bain had residual blood staining on his hands and under his nails, including blood that had splashed towards him. The samples of this blood were never tested, and were destroyed immediately after the first trial – even though an appeal was known to be pending.  Whose DNA would have been revealed?

The conclusion of the book supports a compensation claim, considering that David Bain was and is innocent, and the case was much like what happened to Arthur Allan Thomas. As Karam says, “this evidence has always been no more than a house of cards. That it took so long before David was acquitted should be a source of shame to all of the government agencies involved in the administration of justice in New Zealand”.

No matter your opinion on the case, this book will answer all your questions.   Highly recommended.  9/10

David Bain interview  screening on Sunday 4 March 2012, 7.30pm, TV3.    Reserve Karam books

Addendum: In 2013, TV3’s “3rd Degree” programme revealed that close up scrutiny of photographs of Robin Bains hand post-mortem, seemed to show marks exactly identical to powder marks that would be left on the thumb when re-loading the rifle used in the Bain murders. These marks exactly match marks made by further testing of the murder weapon. Forensic evidence already confirmed that the rifle had been re-loaded at least once during the crime. N.Z. police contest this, saying the marks were older cuts, proven by blank spots on the elimination finger prints taken. Curiously the detailed post-mortem report does note many other small marks and abrasions on Robins hands but not these marks. Robin Bain’s hands were not bagged to preserve evidence, before his body was moved. Controversy continues as Joe Karam and David Bain seek to prove his innocence in a bid for compensation.

From → New Books

  1. Socrates permalink

    “No matter your opinion on the case, this book will answer all your questions.”

    No it won’t. As all of Joe’s books it shows a slanted view. It excludes evidence the defence requested then didn’t like. For example the gun expert who said it was nigh on impossible for Robin Bain to shoot himself.

    As a rebuttal you should read this

    There is no way David Bain should get compensation.


    • Hi Socrates. Thanks for your opinion. I do agree that the book is slightly biased, but a lot less biased than Karams previous works. For the most part, I felt he limited himself to discussing the evidence from a legal perspective, and I considered it relatively balanced.

      The retrial defence experts proved that the evidence (blood splashes etc) supported the conclusion that Robin Bain was standing bent over, with one knee up on a chair, and the rifle placed at his temple when the shot was fired. This position was easily achievable, and matched up with the trajectory of the bullet and other evidence. This is clearly discussed in the book.

      Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. There are people who persist in believing that David Bain did it, and no matter what the second jury, Karam, Bain or anyone else says, I doubt their opinion can be changed now.


  2. Anon permalink

    An insightful review by prominent lawyer, Dr Don Mathias, can be found at
    This supports the proposition that Robin Bain committed suicide.


  3. Anonymous permalink

    Don and you are wrong. I have read this book and it only confirms my belief that David did it. The glaring errors in the book, the misinformation, all lead to the conclusion that David continues to slander and besmirch one of his victims.

    I look forward to when his application for compensation is rejected and the judge finds that on the balance of probabilities David was the killer.


    • Hi Someone. Thanks for your comment. You obviously have a very strong opinion on this matter, as do many people. Strange really that it still polarises people so much considering the re-trial found him innocent – I guess the price of all this is that many NZers no longer trust the judiciary process to get it right…

      I would like to point out that this book was written by Joe Karam, not David Bain, so he has not ‘continued to slander and besmirch one of his victims’.

      Perhaps you’d care to enlarge on ‘The glaring errors in the book, the misinformation’ – what particular evidence do you feel shows David as the killer?

      We will have to agree to disagree, as I do feel that compensation is warranted.


  4. rick permalink

    david bain is the killer,why,because either david or robin was the killer.
    if robin bain shot his family and then shot himself how did he do it and leave no fingerprints on the bloodstained rifle,whereas davids are on the rifle.
    the biggest miracle since jesus walked on water if you shoot yourself and leave no evidence on the rifle and no blood on his clothing,even though stevens room was awash in blood,robin bain was never there,david was the killer.


    • Hi Rick. Thanks for your opinion.

      Unfortunately, you are basing your opinion on erroneous evidence from the first trial in this regard, and you’ll find – if you read the book – that this point is fully explained and updated evidence provided by forensic scientists. For example, there was blood on Robins clothing, and under his nails too.

      I’d be interested to see what you think after you’ve actually read the book – which is actually based on court evidence including verbatim reports.


      • Jock permalink

        Yes Tararua there was blood on Robins clothes but when tested it all proved to be from his own head wound, unlike all the blood on Davids clothes his pants his socks and his T shirt all had blood from his brother Stephen a brother that David shot and strangled to death.


  5. Cassandra Stornoway permalink

    Great book Joe. Particularly interesting chapter 20 on familicide and the statistics and characteristics and gender of the perpetrators.Compensation is well due to David as well as the return of his stolen inheritance by the family.


  6. Bongo Drums permalink

    The trouble is that Karam cannot explain how those glasses came to be on a chair in David Bain’s room.Those glasses were a pair of his mother’s that he had worn before when his were not available. They had a damaged frame and one lens was missing. That lens was later found in Stephen’s room. David’s aunt testified that there was a conversation about David’s glasses on the Tuesday morning after the murders. David,who was staying with his aunt and uncle,said that he had been wearing a pair of his mother’s glasses while his were in being repaired after he had damaged them on the previous Thursday. They weren’t perfect ,he said but they got him by.
    At the first trial David denied wearing those glasses,even though he had told his lawyer he was going to admit to wearing them. David’s aunt testified at the retrial.
    And Karam cannot explain how David Bain came to have those scratches on his chest. The prison officer who strip-searched David Bain shortly after he was arrested said the scratch marks appeared consistent with “clawing or grappling through clothing”. How did David Bain get those scratch marks?


  7. Bongo Drums permalink

    The blood on Robin Bain’s clothing. In his book David and Goliath Karam wrote [quote] I have no doubt that if the blood staining [on Robin Bain’s clothing] had been analysed for blood grouping it would have been found to be the blood from deceased members of his family [end quote].After he wrote that 40 samples af that blood were taken and the only full results showed Robin Bain’s DNA. So in his latest book Karam now gives a different explanation as to how that blood got there.
    The “blood” under Robin Bain’s fingernails. Karam presumeds that it is blood .Forensic scientist Dr Henstchel said that it was a red substance,he did not say it was blood. He also said there was insufficient quantity for it to be tested.


  8. I wouldn’t hold much in store on the Don Mathias link above. I have discussed this with him. He is an intellectual who likes to play games with arguments. For other insight into his view of the case go here: .

    Similarly I would not hold much in store to what Joe Karam says. He repeatedly gets facts wrong, and then when it is pointed out to him, fails to correct it. His whole case is based on evidence that does not exist, eg: the blood sampling on Robin’s hands that the police did not take, because the samples were too small to be tested at the time, and the GSR that the police did not take, due to an oversight etc etc. Meanwhile he ignores a crate load of evidence that incriminates David, including a Melbourne armourer’s report that Karam commissioned in which the conclusion was that Robin could not have committed suicide, David’s fingerprints on the rifle, blood on his clothes, fingerprints on the washing machine, blood in the shower (Robin had not showered), glasses that David wore broken in Stephen’s room, testimony that David planned to use the paper run as an alibi for a crime etc etc etc.

    I think you will find that Justice Binnie will conclusively reject the compensation bid and in the full passage of time what Karam has actually done will be fully made clear. I do not blame you for believing that David is innocent, the arguments have been put forward very persuasivly.

    Also note that Karam’s good friend Paul Holmes has scathingly dissed this book suggesting that it belongs down the dunny.

    I would suggest, rather than take this book at face value, you should have a look at the evidence.


    • Jock permalink

      Kent it seems Karam has wasted many years of his life freeing a family killer and now he seems to be determined to waste our time and money as well.


    • Jock permalink

      Thanks for the link Kent, its a pity this lawyer didn’t research the evidence a little then he would have a better idea about what he is trying to talk about, just a professional time waster by the looks.


  9. Bongo Drums permalink
    Some people still believe that a person who is found not guilty is innocent. Not the same all..
    Even a retrial juror does not want David Bain to receive any compensation.


  10. Bongo Drums permalink
    Don’t pay Bain compo,says juror at retrial.


  11. Does jk mention any information regarding his share of any compensation that may be coming to david Bain? According to Mr Karam he is entitled to 50% of any compensation david Bain is paid. That information can be found in his book David and Golieth whic should be read in conjunction with the PCA report.
    Thats after he has already been paid upwards of $300000 from legal aid. He forgets to mention that and allows people to believe he has been fighting for db out of his own pocket!!! No, its you me and every NZer thats been paying for db’s freedom. In my opinion he should take his freedom and tell Mr Karam to let him get on with as normal a life as possible, thats as normal as anyone can have when a majority of the population now believe that Robin Bain is an innocent man and does not deserve the defamation being heaped upon him when he cannot defend himself.


  12. Anonymous permalink

    I would just like to point out an error in Trial by Ambush that some people may not be aware of. There is a photo of David Bain’s room in the book,and there is a blue object in the room which Karam describes as a case. That blue object is actually a massage table. A friend of David Bain’s gave evidence and said that she happened to see a book in David’s room which had photos in it of people massaging each other. She asked David about it and he said he and his mother did massages and pointed out the massage table,which was the blue object in that photo.


  13. Anonymous permalink

    How did David Bain get those bruises on his forehead? Did he get them by
    [a] Being pulled into a recovery position after fainting when hearing that Arawa was dead?
    [b]Blundering around the house when checking on his family when he arrived home and perhaps fainting or crashing into something?
    [c] Being hit in the forehead by his brother Stephen when the latter was fighting for his life?
    David Bain says he doesnt know how he got those bruises,and if he doesn’t know,then who else does?


  14. Anonymous permalink

    How did David Bain get his brother’s blood on his shorts? Did that blood get there either by him
    [a] Somehow transferring that blood to the crotch of his shorts when kneeling over his brother’s body? or
    [b] Did that blood seep through from some outer clothing that David was wearing at the time he was struggling with his brother?
    David Bain doesn’t know,and if he doesn’t know,then who else does?


    • Jock permalink

      Dear Joe,

      Many years ago now you met David Bain and were convinced almost immediately of his complete innocence. David Bain a murderer, no way you said after just your first meeting. That almost instant presumption about a person convicted of 5 murders seems irrational right from the start considering you had probably never met a person with the type of mentality that a family killer would have, let alone having no training as far as I know as a psychologist or CIB investigator used to dealing with psychopaths, murderers etc. Since that time you have spent thousands of hours and no doubt thousands of dollars searching for elusive evidence connecting David’s father to the murders in order to get justice for David Bain the man you think is innocent.

      On the face of it this is a very admirable and charitable thing that you have done, and no doubt there are many people that are convinced that you deserve a knighthood or at least some sort of honour for what you have achieved for David Bain.

      But at this stage I am not one of those convinced that you have achieved anything of merit, the reason I say this is because after spending many hours myself looking at the evidence I certainly are not convinced of David Bain’s innocence and also there are things that to me don’t seem to ring true, and have me rather concerned that you may have become overzealous and side-tracked in your fight for justice. I think you would agree that any fight for justice should always be seen to be fair, reasonable, and above all truthful to the highest degree.

      So bearing all of the above in mind I would like to get to the point and ask you several questions about some of the actions and statements you have made on radio and in the books that you have written.

      Number [1] In your book David and Goliath published in 1997 on page 203 you said [Quote] I have no doubt that if the blood staining on Robin\’s clothing had been analysed for blood grouping, it would have been found to be the blood of deceased members of his family.[end quote]

      This may have been a presumption that you could have made with a little confidence at the time when David and Goliath was first published in 1997 because no DNA testing of Robins clothing had been completed at that stage. But as you surely must be aware extensive DNA testing was done later in 1997 and 2003 by highly respected forensic scientist Dr Sally Ann Harbison whose DNA testing showed that the blood found on Robin’s clothing was his own.

      Ok so Harbison’s testing of Robin’s clothes has proved your presumption made in David and Goliath to be incorrect. So my question to you as a person who claims to be fighting for truth and justice for David Bain would be Why did you not correct this obvious misleading mistake made in your book when it was republished in 2007?

      Number [2] On page 114 in your book David and Goliath you made the following statement [Quote] David was prematurely arrested, imagine the difference in police positioning had they already known on the Friday morning that these glasses were previously David’s mothers and “OF NO USE TO HIM” [end quote]

      This statement as you surely must have become aware of shortly after your book was published in 1997 is of course completely contrary to what Optometrist Katherine Bridgman said, and David Bain himself admitted that he indeed did use this old pair of his Mother’s glasses when his were not available, for going to lectures and watching TV.

      So again my question is why as a person who claims to be fighting for truth and justice did you not correct this obvious misleading mistake made in your book when it was republished in 2007?

      Number [3] Joe in 2010 you challenged Michael Laws to a live radio debate about the evidence in the Bain murders, subsequently part way through that debate the issue of the bruises found on David’s head and face was debated and you made the following statement [quote] David Bain did faint, when he fainted he crashed down between, and banged his head, the officer Andrews who was with David when David fainted and crashed down behind the bed saw David crash down behind the bed and it was the constable Andrews who gave this evidence about him crashing down and banging his head on the wall by the window sill in his bedroom on the right side of his face, now that’s the evidence in the trial. [End Quote]

      After listening to this Joe my question to you would be why did you make the above statement when clearly as shown in the court transcripts and as reported in the newspapers HERE Constable Andrews actually said that he did not observe David Bain hit his head or strike any part of his body?

      Joe if you do really believe in truth, justice, and the innocence of David Bain I think it is now necessary to come forward to explain your motives for the actions that I have brought to your attention, of course you may well have some simple explanations but at this stage I certainly can’t think of any.


  15. Anonymous permalink

    You can see why Don Mathias likes to argue both sides of the case.Those people who believe that David Bain didn’t do it would go for [a] or b] re those bruises and [a] re that blood on his shorts.Those who believe he did do it would go for [c] re those bruises or [b] re the blood on his shorts.


  16. Does Mr Karam also try to explain why Ms Koch ,whose evidence suppressed during trial as being to prejudicial, wanted to tell the court that Laniet told her while they were in the house that david had been threatening the family with a rifle? Does he try to explain the evidence given by Darryl Young for the defence has now been found to be a load of lies? Does Mr Karam go into any more detail regarding david telling two school mates how he could commit a kidnap of a jogger and use his paper round as an alibi, even to the extent of having that plan in writting? Mr Karam might have enough material to write a book defending david but the evidence against david is far more convincing,facts and actual evidence such as blood on david, injuries on david, david’s fingerprints on the rifle , the glasses found in his room and lens in his brothers room, the rifle magazine on its edge, his gloves under his brothers bed (blood stained) etc etc etc the list goes on!!!
    As you can tell Im 100% convinced of david Bains guilt. But the thing that motivates me to comment on regarding that is that Im 200% convinced the ROBIN BAIN IS INNOCENT!!! But then its easy to slander and defame a man that cannot defend himself.


  17. Seems your in the minority Tararua. The majority of the population wont be fooled by the author’s spin anymore. I hope you have his books filed in the fantasy section from now on. If you really want to see facts and material that show who the guilty party is you should look at this website I have just found and comment again. These people, normal members of the population, have seriously done their homework.


  18. Hi Charlie and everyone else. Thanks for all your very interesting comments. I hope people choose to read the book “Trial by ambush” themselves, and other information, and make up their own minds. 😉


  19. Anonymous permalink

    Hi Tararua Library.
    Yes ,by all means read Trial by Ambush. But try to get hold of as much other reading material as possible if you want to get a balanced view.Much of it can be found on Kent Parker’s counterspin website. The PCA Report,for example. Stories from friends and family. And the Court of Appeal hearings make interesting reading. Also some websites give a daily run down of the retrial .


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