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Q&A: True Crime writer Scott Bainbridge

Interview
Q&A: Scott Bainbridge
Interviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

VR: Why does your latest book, The Missing Files, have only some new cases, i.e. why is there rather a lot of repetition of cases from your previous two books on missing Kiwis, namely Without Trace (2005) and Still Missing (2008)?

Scott Bainbridge is one of New Zealand’s foremost investigative and True Crime authors. His first two books; Without Trace and Still Missing about missing persons, led to several cold-cases being re-opened, and inspired the acclaimed TVNZ series, The Missing. In his third book; Shot in the Dark, Bainbridge accessed old murder files to examine unsolved NZ murders of the 1920s and 30s, dispelling decades-old myths and uncovering hidden truths. His latest book is The Missing Files.

Scott Bainbridge is one of New Zealand’s foremost investigative and True Crime authors. His first two books; Without Trace and Still Missing about missing persons, led to several cold-cases being re-opened, and inspired the acclaimed TVNZ series, The Missing. In his third book; Shot in the Dark, Bainbridge accessed old murder files to examine unsolved NZ murders of the 1920s and 30s, dispelling decades-old myths and uncovering hidden truths. His latest book is The Missing Files.

Scott: When I re-visited those two earlier books and the television series, The Missing, which followed on from them, I realised that there had been progress since then, across several of the cases. For example, in the Marion Granville case, her own Mum had no idea that Marion was on heroin, and was dealing in it too…

I also now have less of a closed shop reaction from the NZ Police. I obtained far more details.

So, my new book is an update from these earlier books.

More, I feel that I have now moved on from these cases.

VR: ‘Realistically’, for which cases from The Missing Files do you see any resolution? For example, the cases of Heidi Charles? Sydney Patrick Fisk? Craig Hampton, all of which I found rather intriguing.

Scott: I had a meeting with Missing Persons Bureau last month and we had what is termed ‘anniversary reviews’ of certain cases, yet – unlike previously – there was no new information forthcoming from any source as a result of this new book.

However, in some cases there has been some progress. For example, a whānau desire to resolve the case. The Wharton whānau want to find Betty. The belief is that indeed she is buried on a Tatuanui farm property.

About Heidi Charles, I have no idea. There is still a strong lead in the tale of her husband attending a boy scout camp and supposedly threatening his son there that he would do to him (the son) what he did to his mother, although the son has no such recollection about this comment. Heidi may well have left Rotorua willingly – after all she did have NZ$400, which would be worth several thousand dollars back then (1977)…

VR: Was there perhaps a serial killer in Rotorua? For example, what about the case of Olive Walker?

Scott: No, much more likely her likely killer is a man related to her who has been in jail for a number of years for sexually-related crimes. The police have in fact interviewed him about this case…

Fisk was more than likely murdered, although the story about ring-bolting being a cause for this seems rather over the top – as is any tax evasion reason. The tale about him being buried under new roadworks, still has substance at this stage.

Hampton, was likely murdered after a drinking session went overboard and there were threats made about Henry’s dog being taken by Craig (Hampton). Henry, by the way, is not his real name and his story does keep on changing…

VR: Do you ever get any resistance from anyone when you investigate any of these cases, for example from whānau, police, ‘suspects’?

Scott: Yes, previously. The worst was the Betty Wharton episode, which I describe in the book, when the door was suddenly slammed in my face by Marion Wharton, when I mentioned Betty’s name. Then, in another case relating to a 1970s disappearance, I had a meeting with a well-dressed Māori man, who basically said his whānau was not desirous of my investigating. He then passed me a large envelope with a picture of my young son inside … how he managed to obtain this photo is baffling in itself as my son was attending a private pre-school just down the road … obviously, this was a strong hint not to ask any more questions.

Nowadays, however, things are not so bad, as I avoid cases where a family makes it clear they do not want any investigation. The NZ Police are helpful, although they cannot reveal much when a case remains an open one. Even although they do want to assist.

VR: Do you think the Highway 61 – Mona Blades link has any credibility?

Scott: No, that is a lot of rubbish, and the detective to whom it was attributed also thinks this. The police do not believe this a supposed ‘new angle’. More, the police did track down the killer – all to do with the Hamilton removal company I write about in The Missing Files, where the two guys finger-point at one another … in fact, it seems that there were two men in that car, the orange Datsun … I do name these men. They are both still alive, one living in Australia.

VR: Is there a serial killer out at Piha? That is, what happened to Iraena Asher, Cherie Vousden and Kim Bambus?

Scott: I don’t believe the Iraena Asher case is connected to the more recent ones, but that the participants at Piha that night of her disappearance know more than they have so far let on. She did, I think, vanish at sea. But yes, the two more recent cases do tend to point towards murder …

VR: What is next for Scott Bainbridge? Any more compilations about historical murders, such as Shot in the Dark and its depiction of murders of the 1920s and 30s? More missing people? More individual crime cases such as the two recent books you have written about the Bassett Road Murders and Ron Jorgenson, and the 1956 Waterfront Heist, including Trevor Nash? A new TV series, perhaps?

Scott: I want to write a compilation about murders of earlier times, here from 1900 to 1920. But you know, every time I launch a book, something hugely newsworthy breaks on the same day – in one case the death of David Lange, in another case the Pike River Disaster, so my book launches were completely subjugated!

I can’t see myself revisiting the missing again, as I am more interested in the historical portrayals nowadays, as for example criminals and crime around and just after the times of Nash and Jorgenson – the latter of whom, I believe was killed, and did not lope off to Perth, by the way.

I’m also interested in a book about New Zealand mysteries, such as the Bermuda Triangle type situation in the South Island…

VR: And then there is Bruce Cathie and his Harmonic 33 theory about UFOs around Aotearoa…

Scott: Was that around Kaikoura?

Interview conducted 28 October 2018.