Brothers’ long wait for justice
By Grant Johnston
Bruce and Murray Bain of Te Awamutu have had only one priority in their pursuit of the facts about the death of their younger brother, Grant at the Army’s Waiouru cadet school in 1981 - the truth.
For the past 23 years they have been convinced that the Army’s version of events is a cover-up and that the court of enquiry was unable to hand down the proper verdict.
They will never accept the fact that the cadet responsible, Andrew William Read, was charged only with causing death by carelessly misusing a firearm.
They believe a damage-control exercise, involving the Police as well as Army, prevented a more appropriate charge of manslaughter being brought.
Grant Bain was 17 when he was threatened with a loaded .223 rifle and shot in the neck at the Waiouru barracks.
It was February 13, 1981 when Read (17) threatened Grant. Grant pushed the gun away and it fired. Police charged Read with careless use of a firearm. He pleaded guilty and received a $200 fine and 200 hours community service - served at the Army’s Waiouru golf course.
The brothers’ father, Neil, relentlessly pursued the truth for several years after Grant’s death, but had to give up his case for justice because it was proving too stressful for the boys’ mother, Valerie.
“We basically agreed to abide by Mum’s wishes,” Murray Bain told the Courier. “She wanted us all to move on, remembering the good things about Grant’s life.”
In 1999 the brothers buried their mother at Te Awamutu Cemetery, alongside Grant.
When they heard three-and-a-half years ago that a photo of Grant, lying dead on the barracks floor at Waiouru, was being used in Army training they could not believe their ears.
“We checked with the Army, who flatly denied it,” Bruce Bain says. “But people from Te Awamutu had seen the photo and they were certain it was of Grant. We had been told in ‘81 by the Army that he had died in hospital after the shooting. We demanded the Army tell us which version of events was correct.”
But like virtually every detail the family has been able to glean about Grant’s death, they had to follow a route that always ended up with the Ombudsman.
With the help of local MP Shane Ardern and New Zealand First MP, Ron Marks, a former army officer, they eventually obtained a copy of the photo from the Ombudsman. It confirmed the Army’s version of events was incorrect - certainly in respect of where Grant died. The Bain brothers were back on the case in earnest.
They say they were told by Hamilton Police that a large file on Grant’s case existed and that they would be entitled to receive a copy. Later they were told that was incorrect and the file had been destroyed.They say this was typical of the ‘road blocks’ they have encountered at every turn as they have tried to find the truth about their brother’s case.
The civil court case was held the same day as Grant’s funeral - the family were not informed and could not attend, obviously, and nor could most of the witnesses to the barracks shooting, who were also at the funeral.
A large number of military personnel attended the funeral in Te Awamutu - although the Bain family resisted attempts to have it conducted as a military funeral.
“Dad told the Army, we’ve had Grant for 17 years, you had him for three weeks,” Murray Bain says.
The brothers say their father was told by Hamilton Police detective inspector Phil Berryman that the charge should have been at least manslaughter, if not murder.
When former cadet, Ian Fraser recently posted a report on the internet detailing abuse of cadets as young as 15 at the cadet school during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, it prompted other former cadets to reveal more allegations of abuse.
Bruce Bain says it also brought forward witnesses to their brother’s death. “We heard from the cadet who was placed in charge of Grant’s body after the shooting, the medic who was an ex cadet himself who attended and one of the other three cadets in the room.
“Some of what we have been told differs markedly from the Army’s version.”
The brothers have faced a ‘media frenzy’ since the news hit the Herald on Tuesday. When the Courier interviewed them yesterday they were heading off to Auckland to talk with the makers of a prominent documentary series, who they have been dealing with for 18 months - having this week turned down many major media, including Holmes.
They say local MP Shane Ardern has been magnifi cent in his efforts on their behalf (as was Marilyn Waring in 1981, but she basically hit a ‘brick wall’). He rang yesterday to say he would be raising a question in the House for Defence Minister, Mark Burton.
He was to ask whether the Bain case was part of the ‘urgent enquiry’ into the cadet school that had been launched, and if not why not?
If it was, Mr Ardern also wanted to ask why then when he contacted Mr Burton two years ago to ask for the court of enquiry notes, was he told that the case was “an isolated one from 21 years ago and should be left alone”.
The Bain brothers are also chasing an audience with Defence Minister, Mark Burton, who has launched an enquiry into goings on at the cadet school.
“It was heartening to hear Prime Minister Helen Clark say on television last night that she believed it was at least a case for manslaughter,” Murray Bain says “We are determined to see this through for Grant.”
See ‘Who was Grant Bain’ and more details page 4 of this week's Courier (PDF).