Brief Timeline of events.
3.1 9 Sept ’11 The fire which was first seen at 11:48 pm, by the time the fire service arrived, about 15 minutes later, there was little to save.
3.2 10 Sept ’11 The NZ Fire Service had been continuously at the site since they arrived shortly after midnight. In the morning they started their investigation. They took a series of images of the fire scene – including the back-door lock in a locked position and the remains in the library with the twisted steel beam which was largely proud of the debris.
a) The Fire Service took a sample of the debris which was tested for accelerant later, it produced a negative result.
b) DS Sam Bindon of the Kerikeri Police arrived early and also took a series of images of the fire scene. His images show that the property had suffered a forced entry, a large rock had been used to smash one of the ground floor bedroom bi-fold doors windows and the door was found open and unlocked. He also recorded the back-door lock being in the locked position and all the glass on the main bedroom balcony smashed, with a large rock just visible near the edge of the balcony.
c) Later, DS Sam Bindon, found 2 fresh cigarette butts outside the barn some 40m from the house and two small beer bottles containing petrol just inside the barn. He recorded his finds photographically, later the cigarette butts were found to contain the DNA of two or more unknown persons who clearly were at the fire scene on the night of the fire and the liquid in the bottles was petrol.
d) CJR and ACR arrived back at the fire scene at around 16:30. The FSO with DS Sam Bindon told them that vandals had started the fire. They were also told that the Fire Service could do little to control the fire since they were very short of water and by the time when they got a better supply, the house had been almost totally consumed. Only about 5% of the structure survived, the western end walls with the main bedroom balcony, a section of the rear corner including the back door and a metre or two of the rooms inside those walls.
3.3 11 Sept’11 A Loss Adjuster appointed by IAG arrived. He suggests a settlement for the house of around $1,000,000. This figure CJR discovered later was from the registered CV of the property but inexplicably this was related to a property of 300 sq.m built in 1985. This was probably the old barn that had stood in that location at that time.
Naturally, the loss adjuster was told of the latest valuation and left.
ACR removed the horses, their tack and other items from the undamaged barn to a friends’ house a few miles away.
3.4 12 Sept’11 MF arranges to meet CJR at the fire scene. Before MF even stepped into the remains of the property, he immediately accused CJR of starting the fire stating it would only take him a few minutes to find out how CJR had started it. CJR reported this conversation and accusation to his lawyer by email.
MF found nothing incriminating, but excavated the area below CJR’s dressing room to find the small safe. In doing so, he relocated the debris from his excavation to an area close to the back-door. He apparently did not notice petrol fumes or any indications of accelerant in that area. He interrogated CJR and ACR for several hours over the following days.
3.5 14 Sept’11 RJ arrives and meets with CJR at the fire scene. He did an initial inspection of the scene, producing handwritten notes with diagrams. These would be disclosed as evidence in July 2012. In them, RJ records the state of the back door as ‘Locked – key not located’
3.6 15 Sept’11 RJ continues his investigation. In the master bedroom he took images of empty jewellery boxes on the remains of the bed, family photographs which have clearly been removed from their frames and three rocks he found on top of all the debris and broken glass on the balcony outside the bedroom.
3.7 16 Sept’11 RJ concludes his first site visit. He concentrated on the main bedroom balcony rocks, taking close up images of all 3 (1, 2, 3) of them which are clearly on top of the debris with all the smashed glass also all on top of the debris. MF was sent back to interrogate CJR and ACR about the rocks, wanting to know if they were used inside the house and had they been ‘arranged’ on the balcony. He was told that the rocks were purely garden items and not used in the house at all.
3.8 8 Nov’11 RJ returns. He extensively excavates the Library area down to the bare concrete floor. Most of the debris was moved into the alcove at the western end of the library and it filled the space under the large twisted steel beam that divided the room. He recorded the excavations in a series of images – his report shows nothing of any significance was found.
Later that day, 2 months after the fire, RJ excavated an area inside the back-door, one of the areas least affected by the fire. He claimed that found evidence of pooling and trailing of accelerant, however, he didn’t take any samples for forensic analysis.
3.9 29 Nov’11 Scientific and Computer Press, carried sensational reports stating that HP Printers can be hacked so as to allow them to remotely ignite fires. These pages are still visible on the internet:-
3.10 12 Dec’11 RJ and MF return to the Fire Scene to search for ‘The Printer’ with heavy lifting and digging equipment. They lifted the twisted steel beam out of the library and claim they immediately discovered the printer on top of the debris pile exposed.
3.11 12-13 Dec’11 They then removed the fallen floor from the room above and went on to clear the whole area of the library, hallway, rear bedroom with en-suite, rear hall including the area inside back-door and utility room right down to bare concrete. The removed debris was piled up mainly in the garage area but some was pushed into the remaining parts of the building which was severely damaged by these actions.
3.12 13 Dec’11 Police raid CJR and ACR’s address with a Search Warrant to take all the laptops they found for investigation. MF also appeared and told CJR that they had found ‘The Printer.’
3.13 17 Apr’12
a) CJR arrested for Arson + related charges by WD. CJR agrees to a Police interview. He is told that he had caused the fire by ‘Hacking the printer.’
b) Supposedly, he had issued a remote instruction over the internet from the laptop in Hamilton which instructed the printer, connected to the PC at the house, to print an email and it had then burst into flames and set the house alight causing the fire. ‘Hacking software’ was claimed to have been found on the laptop and the remains of the PC.
c) During the interview, DW constantly referred to a Computer Forensics Report written by MJ. It was very distinctive with a photograph of 3 Hard Drives on the cover as seen on the video record of the interview.
d) CJR pointed out that he only had ink jet printers which had no heat source or user programmable memory so they couldn’t be hacked or cause a fire in any circumstance.
e) CJR was however, still charged and WD gave him three large ring binders containing the disclosure documents to take to the Court with him. He was due to appear the next morning after being held at the Police Station overnight.
3.14 18 Apr’12 CJR was bailed the next day. When he returned to the Police Station to collect the disclosure, he was told it had been lost. Eventually, after protesting, he was given a single thin file that just contained the CD’s of images taken by the Fire Service and DS Bindon.
3.15 20 Apr’12 CJR detailed the ‘Hacking’ accusations by email to his lawyer, Andrew Hooker.
3.16 23 Apr’12 CJR asks for technical help regarding the possibility of hacking a printer to cause a fire on several internet printer forums – some of these posts are still visible on the internet today. https://www.printerforums.net/threads/inkjet-in-flames.61063/#post-201148
He got replies alerting him to the HP fire press reports on 29 Nov’11.
3.17 3 May’12 CJH, on behalf of IAG, declined the insurance claim, ‘State is satisfied on the information available to it that Mr Robinson was the person responsible for lighting the fire. While the Robinsons were absent from the address at the time of the fire, State believes that Mr Robinson used remote access computer software installed on his laptop computer to remotely access a printer located at the insured property, which had been set up so as to trigger an ignition device when the printer was-activated. Once ignition occurred, the fire spread throughout the house.’
This detailed a very different method of ignition than an email being sent to a hacked printer that CJR had been told about at the Police interview. Here the printer attached to the PC is remotely accessed and set up to TRIGGER an ignition device. There is no mention of HACKING or emails in this letter and no component of an ignition device had been found in the debris.
a) Disclosure followed very slowly, reports by RJ and MJ but not the report with the 3 hard drives on the cover. The images taken by MF and RJ were requested but MF’s have never been disclosed, those taken by RJ were not disclosed at this time.
b) After the disclosure, it was clear that both the original ‘Hacking’ theory of ignition and its replacement, the dramatically different ‘Trigger’ theory of ignition, RELY on the printer operating.
c) To do so required it to have received a ‘PRINT COMMAND’ issued from the PC and the disclosed evidence had no reference to the existence of such a command. Due to this and other issues CJR applied to the Court for a Pre trial hearing challenging the admissibility of the expert evidence of RJ and MJ.
d) The disclosure does contain photographs and comments relating to the Forced Entry evidence. RJ’s Fire Investigation Report dated 4 October 2011, includes accusations that this evidence was staged by CJR.
3.19 Late Feb’13 In preparation for the Pre trial RJ was forced to disclose over 500 images taken at the fire scene during his investigations there. A significant number of images were redacted however.
3.20 15 April’13 RJ gives evidence to the Pre trial, (PT1), the disclosed images show that large pieces of this evidence were misleading. For the purpose of this complaint only a limited number of the most blatant examples of RJ misleading the Court are detailed here.
The Back Door.
3.21 RJ noted in his Fire Investigation Report, dated 4 October 2011, 6.5.2 that the ‘door was found in the UNLOCKED position. It was fully closed. ’
His verbal evidence to the Pre trial included,
(PT1 Transcript P21, 11-14) ‘that the door leading out onto a small balcony was in the unlocked position and partially open’
(PT1 Transcript P31, 11) ‘The backdoor was in the UNLOCKED position.’
(PT1 Transcript P21, 31) ‘the door was open, was unlocked.’
3.22 The images taken on 10 Sept’11 by DS Binden and the Fire Service whilst the debris was still hot, show the back-door closed, with the thumb turn lock in the LOCKED position. RJ’s scene notes and diagrams taken on his initial inspection of the site records that he found the ‘Back door locked, Key not located.’ RJ took several images of the back door showing state of the lock.
3.23 RJ’s verbal evidence to the Pre trial included,
(PT1 Transcript P21, 16-17) ‘a pattern that is consistent with the presence of a liquid accelerant.’
(PT1 TranscriptP22, 3-5) ‘The conclusion that I drew from the pattern that I had coming down the stairs and from the floor is that a flammable liquid had been poured down the stairs pooling at the bottom of the stairs.’
‘a burn pattern on the floor just inside the door that was indicative of a localised burn pattern consistent with the pooling of a liquid accelerant.’
3.25 In his Determination, contained in this report, he states:-
7.2 ‘the fire was accelerated by the use of a liquid accelerant’
7.4 ‘The probable presence of liquid accelerant’
7.20 ‘accelerated by the use of a hydrocarbon liquid accelerant.’
3.26 The images taken by RJ of the area of pooling and the trails on the stairs show initially that the area around them is some of the least affected by the fire. Only the bottom five steps of the staircase remained, some of the painted MDF decorative panelling remains and the carpet itself around the claimed pooling area shows no indication of any affect by fire, no burnt fibres or molten areas.
3.27 There are images of a badly burnt beam laying on the stairs which could easily account for the marks on the stair carpet which do form a straight line down the stairs, it was presumably removed by RJ. The images show scorching to the carpet on the RISERS of the steps but no damage to the carpet on the TREAD of the step, the reverse of what you would see if a liquid had been poured on the staircase.
3.28 The pooling area still has undamaged rubber underlay and a doormat in place and really appears more likely to have been formed by scraping back the soaked carpet to create the area rather than any effect of fire.
3.29 RJ must have been aware of the Scientific Research recorded in ‘NFPA 921, ‘Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations’ that showed that pooling and trail marks can be formed in fires without accelerants so any evidence based on them must be supported by forensic evidence to be admissible but he based his determination on them in any case.
Master Bedroom Balcony Rocks
3.30 RJ noted in his Fire Investigation Report, dated 4 October
5.6.2 ‘At the western end is a large balcony with glass balustrade.’
5.6.3 ‘The balustrades were broken with the majority of glass located on the balcony itself.
5.6.4 ‘Three large rocks were located on the balcony . .’
3.31 His verbal evidence to the Pre trial included,
(PT1 Transcript P24, 1-7) ‘My first observation was that the balustrade glass was broken and the majority of the glass was on the balcony itself. The indication to me was that the glass, again, had been broken from an internal (external?) attack as opposed from the inside out. Once I gained access to the balcony I located, from memory, three large rocks on the balcony itself . . .’
3.31 RJ noted in his Fire Investigation Report, dated 21 December 2011,
a) ‘Our examination began with the removal of the large steel RSJ beams that ran through the entire scene. This was followed by the extraction of the entire floor plate that was the upstairs office.’
b) ‘During this process we cleared the debris that remained at the western end of the library. This debris included the fire debris from the family lounge above and a portion of debris from the upstairs office.’
c) ‘Located in this debris were the remains of what is believed to be the wireless printer that was used by the insured.’
d) ‘We note that the printer was located in debris that placed it outside of the office. No other printer was located among the debris from the office itself.’
3.32 ‘The discovery of the printer was in debris towards the lower layer of the general fire debris in this area. It is therefore possible that the printer was not in the office and could have been placed in the adjoining room or in the library itself.’
3.33 His verbal evidence to the Pre trial included,
(PT1 Transcript P36, 5-19) ‘I recovered what I believed to be one printer in two parts, however when I returned those to Mr Jorgenson and he examined those parts he was able to tell me that in fact they were two printers with identical parts, not one printer with two different parts. So from that I was able to or Mr Jorgenson was able to explain to me that in the debris that I had recovered were the remains of two separate printers but identical printers.
The remains of those printers were essentially in two layers of the debris. The largest section of printer was located in debris that was approximately six to eight inches above ground level and was reasonably approximate to the underside of the office floor that had collapsed and in terms of alignment it was almost directly in line with the edge of the library and the office. The second part of the printer that I had recovered believing it to be part of the first printer was actually in a layer below that so it was almost at floor level and that was in debris that was slightly back more into the library and in terms of measurements we’re talking possibly about less than half a metre into the library.’
3.34 (PT1 Transcript P45, 5-19) ‘The proximity of at least one of the printers was at low level that I would say was below the level of the top floor. So I’m finding it in the library and would conclude that it was below the floor of the room above.
Therefore it’s in the library itself. The other printer was slightly higher in the levels of fire debris layer, and I believe in that case it would be unsafe if I was relying on that position of that printer alone to say that it was in the library. It could have been in the floor above. So there could be one printer above and one below.’
3.35 The images taken by RJ show the remains of two printers, (1, 2) one is intact with the black plastic case melted by exposure to heat, it had not suffered serious fire damage. This is consistent to the other items located in the office during the fire, including the PC, uninterruptable power supply and cables so it is clear that this printer had been located in the office during the fire, no other items were found anywhere in the fire debris in this condition.
3.36 The images of the second printer show a bare steel printer frame that has clearly suffered serious fire damage, no plastic survived. It was about 50cm. away from the remains of the wall at the western end of the library. It is seen in the images on top of a large pile of debris that was located directly underneath the twisted steel beam that RJ and MF removed using a crane in pouring rain on 12 Dec 2011.
3.37 The printer frame is seen inverted, standing clear of the debris, not pushed down into it, in a dry grove in the debris where the beam had been removed.
3.38 There is a very considerable volume of debris below the printer, it is not as stated by RJ ‘almost at floor level’ the location it obviously would have been in, had it been in the library during the fire.
3.39 Images taken of the twisted beam in this location immediately after the fire by the Fire Service (1, 2) on 10 September 2011 show that there was no pile of debris in this location. Images taken by RJ (1, 2) during his site visit on 14 – 16 Sept’11 also show that you could see under the beam to objects behind without difficulty, there was no debris in that location nor lodged in the sides of the beam itself.
3.40 RJ on 8 Nov’11 had revisited the fire scene and excavated the area in the library in front of the beam. His images (1, 2) show he had piled the debris he had moved into the area of the western alcove and underneath the beam where, later, he would claim to find the remains of the printer.
3.41 The printer remains therefore could not have been in the location shown on RJ’s images taken on 12 Dec’11 at any time after the fire since the pile of debris below it was only created by the excavations of RJ on 8 Nov’11.
3.42 Had it been in this location with the beam in place, it would have been pressed down flush with the exposed dry debris below the beam. Had it been located and operating in the library before the fire it would have a very small amount of fire debris below it.
3.43 There is only one explanation for these inconsistencies, the remains of the printer were dropped, falling inverted, onto the location seen in the images immediately AFTER the beam was removed.
3.44 The remains of the printer were therefore dropped or placed in this location by RJ and MF on 12 Dec’11. It is unclear if they were moved from another location in this fire scene or imported from a different fire scene altogether.
3.45 At the very end of RJ’s testimony to the Pre Trial on 15 April’13, he stated, in reply to a question from Defence Barrister, Catherine Cull, (CC), (PT1 Transcript P77, 5-9) ‘I don’t believe the scene, in itself links Mr Robinson to the setting of the fire’
3.46 13 Aug’13 RJ continues to give evidence to the Pre trial, (PT2), again large sections of this evidence was misleading.
3.47 (PT2 Transcript P8 – 15) RJ is cross examined by CC in reference to the debris underneath the beam. He makes endless denials that he moved the debris into this location and claims the 2D nature of the photographs means they do not show the debris under the beam. The images are very clear, showing both sides of the beam, they show that there was no debris under the beam prior to 8 Nov’11 when he excavated the library and piled the debris under the beam.
Master Bedroom Balcony Rocks
3.48 (PT2 Transcript P16 – 19) RJ is cross examined by CC in reference to the Master Bedroom Balcony Rocks.
RJ repeatedly states the rocks are ‘Among’ debris not on top of it which is directly contradicted by the images he took. One image, IMG_ 1407, even has a piece of alloy window frame curling under the rock and appearing on the other side but RJ just denied that the rocks were on top of the debris.
3.49 (PT2 Transcript P18, 24-29) RJ adds the effect of fire hoses on the debris, stating,
‘Once again it’s in among debris. So what is, what we’re seeing here in this photograph is the effect of debris and glass and other bits of fire debris being moved around by fire hoses. So when you have high and low pressure fire hoses they actually move debris, so even the rocks in this case may have moved from where their original position was, so it might not be exactly where they landed.’
3.50 Fire hoses supply water, the images taken by RJ show no evidence of water on the balcony at all, the debris includes ‘Pink Batts’ insulation which collapses totally when wet but here it is unaffected, there is no sign of any slurry or run off of water from the balcony. It is a deliberately misleading claim, again unsupported by any evidence and contradicted by his own images.
The Back Door
3.51 (PT2 Transcript P30, 2-6) RJ in re-examination by Prosecution Barrister Mr Stevens
‘RE-EXAMINATION CONTINUES: MR STEVENS
Q. And I think you earlier referred to in your evidence in April but did you inspect the backdoor as to whether it was locked or unlocked at the time?
A — It was unlocked.’
3.52 This was the closing question of the re-examination and almost the last statement of the pre trial. In the Crown’s submission after the trial, the fact that the back door was unlocked was listed as the first reason that they discounted what they referred to as the ‘Break in theory.’
3.53 12 Dec’14 Disclosure by MJ includes the following paragraph,
‘It is the writer’s opinion that the respondent had adequately researched and procured all the elements required to remotely initiate the fire. Whether the method finally selected was by initiating a remote print process or whether the fire was successfully initiated by use of the mains power timer switch that he had purchased previously is difficult to prove from this distance. The option of using remote print commands was considered the more likely because of the extent of the research that the respondent had conducted on this, and because the recreation of this option as part of the forensic research identified that this was a simple method to accomplish the desired result. However this option was never intended to be submitted to the court as the only method that could have been employed by the respondent to achieve his desired outcome.’
3.54 The full document was never referred to again but in it, MJ clearly admits that he had no evidence to support the Remote Ignition theory, but he apparently had the power to deduce CJR’s ‘desired outcome’.