One of the most alarming aspects of this case is the way that IAG’s investigators ignored much of the evidence that showed that intruders had forced an entry into the property on the day of the fire.
The presence of intruders at a fire scene is quite common, burning the building down to destroy most of the evidence of their existence and identities.
IAG’s investigators however went further, creating unsupported and untenable claims that Chris Robinson had ‘Staged’ the scene to make it appear that intruders had been present.
The evidence that intruders were present is comprehensive but if IAG were going to avoid meeting the claims then it had to comprehensively discredited.
The intruders had used a large rock to smash the laminated glass of one the bi-fold doors in the downstairs bedroom suite at the front of the property, DS Sam Bindon took a series of images of the area and Russell Joseph repeated the exercise on his first day at the scene. First we show some of the Bindon images taken on 10 September 2011.
And then the similar ones taken by Russell Joseph on 14 September 2011.
DNA of two unidentified persons.
DS Bindon also discovered cigarette butts and beer bottles in the barn area some 50m away from the house. There was a direct entry through the bushes behind the barn to the paddock behind with a track to Pungaere Road. Easy to get in and out unseen by quad or motorbike. Bindon took images:-
ESR Laboratory tests reveal that DNA of two persons were recovered but that neither could be identified. There were minor amounts of DNA on the beer bottles but too little for comparison to the DNA databases.
The result does show however that at least two persons were at the site and left DNA. The fresh state of the cigarette butts limits the timescale to the night of the fire.
The most important evidence that links the intruders to causing the fire is the rocks and glass found on top of the debris ejected by the flashovers in the early part of th fire.
It is easy to see the smashed balustrades, all three have remains on the toughened glass left in the frames which only show some scorching from the fire near the wall of the house. The fire did not cause the glass to break. Russell Joseph took these images on the 15 September 2011.
With the clearly defined layers of fire debris, ceiling pieces and the glass with the rocks on top the order they arrived is easy to see. The timber of the balcony roof cooled by the night time air never reached ignition point so the fire did not consume the balcony.
Russell Joseph obviously understood the significance of these rocks since he returned the next day to take close up images of the rocks on top of the debris.
To discredit all this evidence IAG’s investigator Russell Joseph, in his initial report dated 4 October 2011 suggested that the scene had been staged to make it appear that intruders had caused the fire!
He went on to determine the fire had been deliberately lit and staged to make it look like a personal attack on the building/insured.
No mention was made by Russell Joseph of the cigarette butts and beer bottles found in the barn area or the DNA evidence found on them. Nor was it mentioned that he had found a similar beer bottle in the library debris. An enlargement of part of img_4442.jpg showing the beer bottle is above.
How could all this be staged?
To stage it you would have to known how the fire would react and what sections of the property would remain so as to plant the evidence in those areas.
Fires, and in particular large house fires, are universally accepted as totally unpredictable by their very nature. Nobody could have predicted that the Bi-fold doors with the evidence of forced entry would be in the 5% of this property that survived.
To stage the DNA evidence would require knowledge of the ID of the smoker and that their DNA profile wasn’t on any database in NZ. If it was and they could prove they were not at the scene the evidence would damn the stager!
Not a risk any sensible person would take and how do you get fresh cigarette butts in place when you hadn’t been near the scene for over 30 hours before they were found?
The balcony rocks are obviously on top of the dry fire debris and ceiling sections. The Fire Service extinguished the fire eventually, much of it just ran out of fuel. They left an officer on watch to look out for flare up and one did occur causing them to return again early in the morning. They remained on site for most of the 10 September so there was no opportunity for anyone after the fire was extinguished to throw the rocks.
The only window of opportunity was in the period after the flash overs at around 11:40 pm which alerted the neighbours who called the Fire Service and before the Fire Service arrived at the scene at around 00:15 am on the 10 September ’11.
This is undeniable proof that unknown persons were actively involved in the fire on the night of 9 September’11.