I feel like I should be getting myself a tinfoil hat. Because the investigation into a crime scene where 29 Kiwi workers died should have been pristine. But for some strange reason it wasn’t.
From Conan Young at Radio New Zealand:
Documents released by the Pike River families show the handling of exhibits from the mine was mismanaged, with the inquiry head at the time describing the chain of evidence as “diabolical”.
The revelation casts doubt on whether a potentially crucial piece of evidence to the cause of the explosion, a switchboard door, will ever be found.
The documents are in the form of a debrief conducted by the police in April 2012, looking at what worked and what didn’t in the police investigation into the explosion.
It was written by the inquiry head at the time, Detective Superintendent Peter Read, who continues to be involved in the investigation to this day.
It referred to the police body recovery operation and the investigation into what caused the explosion and said the recovery was “disorganised” when it came to keeping proper records, despite being told early on to take notes.
Mr Read said exhibits, including photos and video, arrived at the investigation base with no documentation so they had no idea when or where they had been taken.
He talked about the chain of custody for evidence, where every movement of exhibits was documented to prevent claims of evidence tampering.
In this case the chain of evidence, which Mr Read said was “basic police work”, was described as “diabolical”.
There were no job sheets or reports for any of the exhibits and at one stage they were given 600 photos of exhibits but had no idea who had taken them or what they were even of.
Cameras bought to help document the recovery operation and the investigation simply disappeared.
And the Department of Labour was also subject to scathing comments:
While the police were on the look out for any criminal behaviour, the Department of Labour, now known as WorkSafe, were investigating any workplace safety breaches.
Police would often defer to these inspectors who were supposed to know more about mining than them.
However Read talked about them as being “out of their depth”.
He noted they were investigating themselves over their own role in the disaster, and asked whether the police should have gone to somebody more independent for advice, such as state-owned coal company Solid Energy.
Fault is found with the Department of Labour’s own record keeping, with Mr Read saying much of their findings were confined to note books and they did not have systems in place to manage their own investigation file in a “logical sequence”.
He said because of this the police were still missing information.
Mr Read said the Department of Labour interviewed a fraction of the people the police talked to and gathered information that would prove their case, instead of trying to corroborate what people were saying by checking with others, as the police would do.
So cruicial evidence which may have identified the combustion point disappeared on a helicoptor and basic police processes regarding the chain of evidence were ignored.
Can someone explain what happened here? And give an explanation that does not involve the use of tin foil?