ON MARCH 30, 2006, at 11.58pm, 15-year-old Patrick Waring was in bed in his Perth home when the door to his room was pushed open. He might have been expecting it to be his parents - but they were 400 kilometres away on holiday. Assuming it to be his older brother, Michael, Patrick looked up to find instead several plain-clothes policemen standing in the doorway.
Ordered from bed, Patrick was advised that he was being arrested for the rape of a teenage girl that had occurred earlier that day. Though he denied ever having met the girl, Patrick, accompanied by Michael, was taken to a nearby police station. Frantic calls were made to the boys' parents, who immediately started driving back to Perth.
By the time they arrived at the station, it was all over. Patrick had been charged with rape and remanded, with a bail hearing set for the following Monday.
''We were disappointed that Patrick wasn't able to be released to us over the weekend,'' father Terry Waring says in Every Family's Nightmare. ''[But] we felt that it was just a process and that we would be able to get him back on the Monday.''
But Terry Waring was wrong. Patrick would not be released for another year and only after a long and painful journey through the West Australian criminal justice system.
''What happened to Patrick could happen to any of us,'' says filmmaker Ed Punchard. ''As our film shows, if the police ever get a hold of you, you can find yourself on an express train that is very hard to get off.''
Punchard first heard of Patrick Waring after he had been on remand for a couple of months. ''We deconstructed every component and it became pretty clear that a miscarriage of justice was taking place,'' Punchard says. ''And so we started shooting, with the family's approval, and followed them right up to the moment Patrick was acquitted.''
Despite Patrick insisting that he had never met the girl, the police case seemed strong. Patrick's number was on the girl's mobile phone and the call log showed that he had called her at the time of the alleged attack. In a photo line-up, the girl had positively identified Patrick as her attacker. There was also CCTV footage of the girl walking along a nearby train platform, followed closely by a man who clearly fitted Patrick's description. But still Patrick maintained he had never met her, a denial that, in the eyes of the police, only seemed to reinforce his guilt.
Because of the violence of the attack - the allegation was that the girl had been raped anally at knifepoint - the judge dismissed the bail application, leaving Patrick awaiting trial in jail, where he was beaten up and routinely strip-searched. After three months of this, the family turned for help to Robin Napper, an independent forensic investigator and former British detective superintendent.
''I told the family I was not a gun for hire,'' says Napper, a 30-year veteran of sexual investigations. ''If I thought Patrick had done this I would tell them.''
But Napper quickly discovered a litany of basic policing errors, starting with the night of Patrick's arrest. ''The police had broken every forensic rule in the book,'' Napper says. ''They took the girl in the clothes she said she had been attacked in, put her in the back of a general-purpose police vehicle and drove her to where she said the crime actually happened. That is a complete no-no.''
Police cars are so full of contamination as to render the girl's clothes worthless as forensic evidence. The police then did the same with Patrick: rather than remove the clothes he said he'd been wearing, they drove him to the station in a general-purpose vehicle.
The police also conducted the first forensic examination of the crime scene at night. ''The only way to examine a crime scene properly is in daylight,'' Napper says. ''But they never did that.''
Transcripts of the interviews also showed that the girl had repeatedly changed her story, something police never bothered to question. The DNA evidence was also damning: there was no sign of Patrick's DNA in the intimate swabs from the girl and no sign of the girl in the intimate swabs of Patrick. But still the case went ahead.
While Patrick had initially denied ever meeting the girl, this was a lie. He had met her, on the day of the attack, when he had briefly chatted to her outside the cinema. Patrick and the girl exchanged phone numbers, and Patrick had attempted to call her, but that was as far as it went. Swept up in a crime he did not commit, Patrick panicked, and denied ever having met the girl.
As Punchard explains: ''It could have been brought to a halt on several occasions but it wasn't. And one of the reasons it wasn't is that the police just assumed they had their man.''
It's a problem of mentality, he says, of modern eliminative policing versus old nominative policing. ''Unfortunately,'' Punchard sighs. ''It's a problem we're still struggling with in this country.''