Even though it is painfully obvious that OSH should never have been involved in the first place, within 6 months this newly established (at the time) government department, hell-bent on making a ground-breaking test case, laid charges against the Berryman’s arguing this was a workplace accident and that the Berryman’s were responsible for not maintaining the bridge leading to their farm—even though there was no autopsy performed on the body of Ken Richards and even though there was no scientific proof the bridge was defective and even though the Berryman’s did not employ Richards whom they simply allowed to use their farm to collect honey.
Perhaps Richards had merely had a heart attack while crossing the bridge? Perhaps he was stung by a swarm of bees and lost control of the vehicle? Perhaps excessive speed was the cause? This we will never know because the Coroner never saw fit to perform a thorough investigation—what today would be standard procedure.
Along the way there were cover-ups, secret army reports the NZ Army were adamant would be kept secret. The Berryman’s also lost their farm house in a suspicious fire that was reported to have been started in two locations inside the property.
After numerous court cases, inquests and hearings, the long running saga did eventually lead to the Berryman’s receiving a grossly inadequate pay-out which they reluctantly accepted under duress— which went to repay a mortgage taken out mostly to repair the bridge on Crown land controlled by the Ruapehu District Council.
Eventually the Berryman’s had no alternative but to reluctantly sell their farm when they had always intended to pass it on to their children, and at a time when farm prices were extremely depressed, not to mention straining their marriage to the limits and dramatically affecting their health after years of nerve racking torment with the axe of a jail term hanging over their heads.