Case 22: Bristol Family Murders (WHANGANUI CHRONICLES – PART III)

WHANGANUI, MANAWATU. In the decades subsequent to 1920, Wanganui did much growing. The town of Wanganui was officially upgraded to a city in 1924. Many of Wanganui’s most well known monuments were erected during this time, including the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower in 1926, the Whanganui Regional Museum in 1928 and the famous War Memorial Hall in 1960.

By the early 1980s, the city of Wanganui had grown so much, it was housing a population of almost 40,000 citizens. Making up a handful of those citizens were the well known business family — The Bristols.

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Hosted by Jessica Rust

Written and edited by Sirius Rust

Music sourced from:

Divider Line

“Might the Sounds One Day Stop”, “Why Has the Radio Stopped Playing”

Kevin MacLeod (
“Day of Chaos”, “Drone in D”, “Ghost Processional (digitally processed)”, “Immersed”

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0

The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but I make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

Case 22: Bristol Family Murders (WHANGANUI CHRONICLES – PART III)


In the decades subsequent to 1920, Wanganui did much growing. The town of Wanganui was officially upgraded to a city in 1924. Many of Wanganui’s most well known monuments were erected during this time, including the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower in 1926, the Whanganui Regional Museum in 1928 and the famous War Memorial Hall in 1960.

By the early 1980s, the city of Wanganui had grown so much, it was housing a population of almost 40,000 citizens. Making up a handful of those citizens were the well known business family — The Bristols, and one of the heirs to the Bristol family fortune was Alan Robert Bristol.


Alan Bristol was the one of four children to George and Patricia Bristol. In his 20s in May of 1984, Alan Bristol was living in a block of flats with friends in Wanganui. It was during this time that Alan met a woman named Christine Carter who lived near him. 

Love quickly bloomed and Christine moved into Alan’s flat after a couple of weeks. The first six months were blissful as the young couple fell deeper and deeper in love and eventually got engaged. Christine described Alan in these early days as, “… an absolute perfectionist, extremely intelligent, strong willed, a very focused young man. He was the blond-haired, blue-eyed golden boy. He’s a very handsome striking man…”

Trouble only started after six months of being together when Alan had trouble hiding his violent side. Christine said that Alan was quick to use violence to resolve his problems and this extended to his relationships, “He’d sort of get into a rage and then it would intensify to the stage where physically, he would just go white in the face and he’d be heaving. And his eyes would dilate. You know, it was just so fearful; it makes you back into a corner, just to get away from it. And then he would explode. And that was when the physical and mental abuse would come – and the rapings. And yet he would wake up in the morning and it was as if it had never happened. And once he’d done it, he’d always give me a bunch of flowers or something, as if to say, well I’m not really this bad person. I didn’t really mean to do it. I’m sorry”.

The domestic violence occurred on a weekly basis, sometimes multiple times a week. Christine suffered black eyes and other bruising during this time. On one occasion, Alan hurt Christine so significantly that she required surgery. The abuse wasn’t just physical either, Alan would also sexually, emotionally and mentally abuse Christine, “He had to dominate every situation. He just had to have the upper hand… you know – to bargain for time, to bargain for property, to bargain for money”.

The fallout from this abuse resulted in Christine breaking off their engagement in December 1985 and she even obtained a non-molestation order against Alan. However, Christine eventually returned to Alan. Christine did this, “because I’ve always wanted to do the right thing… He had this sort of force about him that just kept you there, you know. Maybe it was my insecurity…”.

The abuse took a toll on Christine, she felt alone and isolated from society and felt like nobody would believe her if she spoke to anyone about the violence, “He would say: ‘It’s my word against yours, and who’s going to believe you. I’m a businessman and I’m from this important family. Just who do you think you are?’”.


In early 1986, Christine fell pregnant with Alan’s child. Throughout the pregnancy, Alan’s abuse of Christine continued — he would accuse Christine of sleeping with other men and carrying someone else’s child, “I moved out on my own for a while, because I couldn’t handle it.”

However soon after moving out on her own, Christine was hospitalised due to complications with the pregnancy. While in hospital, Alan came to visit her and stayed by Christine’s side. After this, the twosome became a couple once more.

Christine gave birth to the child on the 18th of December 1986, a daughter — Tiffany Bristol. Two months later on the 15th of February 1987, Christine and Alan were wed. They moved with their two month old daughter to their home just outside of the city, located just off State Highway Three on Marybank Road.

If it ever was, the marriage wasn’t happy for long, Christine discovered early in the relationship, in mid-1987, that Alan was having an affair. Upon discovering this information, Christine moved out of home. This was the first time she left during the marriage, first of many.

However, Alan begged for forgiveness and Christine eventually moved back in. The couple had two more children in the subsequent years, Holly Bristol was born on the 11th of December 1990, then two years later on the 19th of August 1992, Christine gave birth to her third daughter — Claudia Bristol.

In the years after the children were born, the violence directed from Alan to Christine only escalated. Alan was also extremely jealous and possessive and tried to confine Christine to the house to isolate her from her friends and family, she described this as feeling like being ‘a caged animal’, “He wouldn’t let me out. When the phone rang, he would answer the phone. When the mail would come, he checked the mail to see who I was getting correspondence from… I didn’t keep in contact with any of my friends, because it wasn’t worth the emotional strain. If I was going to walk out the door to go somewhere, he would say ‘Who? What? How? When? Where?’ And this was every time. Like one particular instance I went to a friend’s place for a cup of coffee, you know, after I’d picked Tiffany up from school, just to get the children out of the house for a few hours. And within five minutes of being there Alan rang. ‘What time are you coming home? When’s dinner going to be ready?’ Any excuse to draw me back home again. It wasn’t worth it.”


Christine reported Alan’s violent behaviour to the police at least a dozen times but according to Christine, the police ‘weren’t really interested’ in her plight, “One time when I was strangled – Alan was strangling me… – the police said, ‘Just get your things and leave. Just take the child and take her things, your things and just leave. Just don’t provoke the situation any more’”.

On the 3rd of July 1993, after a particularly violent incident, Christine finally had enough of the abuse, “It started at 7 o’clock at night and we blew right through the night. He was beating my head up against the wall. But it was in the places that can’t be seen. I had bruises at the back of my head and chronic headaches. And for some hours we were sitting there in silence and I was too frightened to move. And then he would go to sleep and I didn’t know whether to pack my bags and go, or whatever. I was frightened for the children too. Because he still wanted to have this controlling lever that he could separate me from the children every time. You know we both loved our children dearly. But that was his control over me. He would use them to manipulate me”.

The next morning, the couple got up out of bed and the conflict continued, “The morning we separated he said, ‘Right, are we staying in this marriage or not?’ And I said, ‘No, I can’t handle it anymore’. He said, ‘Right, get your bag’. And he threw all my clothes around and he ripped off my wedding rings and things and he flushed my contact lenses down the toilet. And I don’t know what the wedding rings signified – he had to keep them. He had to – you know – dominate. And that morning the children of course woke with all this going on. And he put a video on and put them in the lounge. And I said, ‘I’m not going without the children’. He said, ‘Oh yes, you are. Get in the car now’. And of course I had this all night, I was emotionally exhausted, physically drained. And I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ And he said, ‘Well just get in the car. I’m going to drop you off at your father’s; you can think about it for a few days’. So we went. He locked the children in the house – this was at 7 o’clock in the morning and drove me round to Dad’s place, threw my bag on the ground – Dad and my stepmother were standing at the kitchen absolutely astounded with what was going on – and Alan just drove off. And that was it. And I didn’t hear anything at all through that day. All I wanted was to be with my children. My youngest child [Claudia] was only 10 months old. And Alan didn’t know how to make up milk formula. He didn’t know what foods to prepare. Because I was the wife; I took care of the home, the children, everything”.

Christine moved out of the family home. The separation was complicated due to all of the couples shared assets, and of course there was the issue of the custody of the children. Christine tried to work out custody of the children out of court but disagreements between her and Alan led to the battle being taken inside the courtroom. Due to Alan still living in the family home, he was granted interim custody of the children, “… Alan had that advantage of the family home where all the surroundings were familiar, their own beds, and toys and whatever. And I had to start from scratch. I think it was one of his tactics – to squeeze me so tight that I would go back. If life was just too difficult financially or materially on my own, I’d have to go back”.

The custody deal allowed Christine to have access to her children on the weekend. However, Alan made these ‘changeovers’ tricky, “He would do things like park up the road on a rainy day, so I couldn’t tell whether they were there or not. And he wouldn’t let the children out of the car until I came. And I would be going backwards and forwards up the driveway. And I felt threatened about that, because those were the times he got threatening, but not to the stage where he was physical. Just threatening words. And I thought I don’t need that because it’s too enclosed. I need to be where it’s more public – out. It was like he was trying to control me in my own place”.

On one occasion in 1993, there was an incident where there was a ‘tussle’ involving their eldest daughter Tiffany. The ‘tussle’ escalated to the point where Tiffany was being physically pulled in the opposite direction by each parent, “… I thought, ‘I’m not going to put this child through this’. Because you could see it on her face. … And you know, I just felt so bad for her. I wanted her, as a Mum, I really wanted my child. But it wasn’t worth putting her through this really explosive situation. You know, you could see it destroying her. It was bad enough the separation, yet the access time just seemed to be more intensified. So, of course, I gave in every time, because it was Tiffany I didn’t want to suffer at the end of the day”.


By November 1993, Alan had ‘poisoned’ Tiffany against Christine — spreading misinformation to the young child, “Tiffany and I had some terrible fights. She would go quiet and then she would say, ‘I hate you, Mum. Dad says that you have another man. Dad says this, Dad says that’. And I said, ‘Tiffany look, do you see another man here? Have you seen me with another man?’ Somehow or other Alan convinced her that there was a man out there, that there was another person that was taking her mother away from the family”.

This same month a custody arrangement was settled on. Due to Christine and Tiffany’s crumbling relationship, it was decided that Alan would have primary custody of Tiffany (now seven) except for Sunday’s each week. The youngest child, one-year-old Claudia was to be primarily in Christine’s care except for Saturday each week. Finally, the middle child, three-year-old Holly was to spend one week with her father, then one week with her mother, and so forth.

However, the first Sunday when Alan was supposed to drop off Tiffany, things didn’t go as planned. Alan pulled up with the three children, he immediately said he wanted to come inside to get one of the girls a drink. Christine refused, “You know, I just feel like as soon as Alan’s inside the door he sort of thinks he can come and go whenever he likes. He’s done this in the past. And I thought, no, I’m having control here. And anyway, one of the children said, ‘I’m thirsty’ and I said, ‘Oh, just a minute’. And they were all playing around on the balcony area there. And I went and got a drink and came back out and he said, ‘Well, why won’t you let me in? Are you hiding something?’ You know, he kept pushing, pushing, pushing”.

Christine had just obtained a new job waitressing and Alan apparently felt threatened that she was going to meet a new man, “And he was especially pushing this bit about the job. ‘You’re going to meet somebody. Are you wearing a mini skirt? And are you doing this?’ And you know, ‘You’re going to look a real tart’ and whatever. And I really felt quite horrible about it. He was standing on the balcony and there are two big high fences along the side, so people couldn’t really see us. And this is where I felt threatened. Because it wasn’t public enough. Anyway, we were on this balcony by the front door and he slammed me up against the wall. And he said, ‘You’re just a big tart’. And that’s when I got a big bruise on my arm and I got another one on my leg. And he just sort of threw me round in the doorway. I made out it didn’t hurt. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Because once he knows he’s got into your mind or physically dominated you, he seems to just run away with the whole situation. And I thought, no, I’m going to stand my ground. [I then picked up Holly and Claudia and Alan said] ‘Tiffany’s coming with me’. And before I knew it, you know because I had my arms full, he’d driven off with her. So I just went inside with the younger two”.

Sick of the voitale situation, Christine moved with the two youngest children to Whakatane on the 8th of November 1993. However, four days later Christine’s lawyer informed her that Alan had applied and was granted an ‘ex parte’ interim custody order for all three children. An ex parte decision is decided by a judge without requiring all the parties involved in the dispute to be present.

The next day, Christine, Holly and Claudia returned to Wanganui. At the Wanganui Police Station Christine handed over her two youngest children to Alan — not knowing when she would see them again.

Christine saw her children sporadically over the next two months. Only seeing them on the 11th of December for Holly’s birthday and on Christmas Day that year, “I got there about 9 am and I was to go at 5 pm but in the finish he said, ‘Why don’t you stay for dinner?’ So I stayed for dinner. And then we got talking about things. And then the reconciliation issue came up. And I was looking at the children all night. We had such a beautiful day together. And I said, ‘I need a couple of days to think about it, a couple of weeks. Just don’t push’. But I knew that I couldn’t handle Alan any more. I just couldn’t live with him again. I just didn’t have what it takes to carry on with the marriage. I loved him but he’d broken me completely. I’d just had too much upheaval over too long a period of time”.

The next day, Boxing Day — Christine was allowed to see the children again, “He kept the pressure up, you know. Consider it; look at the children. And I could feel it. I was getting tense with the whole thing. And he was gaining control again”.

When Christine confirmed that the answer was no they would not be getting back together, Alan’s attitude changed once more to cruel. Two days later, Christine swung around to the family home on Marybank Road to collect the children. However, Tiffany was at a friends house and the other two children were asleep, Christine decided to come back later — just then Claudia awoke crying, “… As I was walking out he put Claudia down on the floor and grabbed me from behind and dragged me up to the bedroom were he tried to rape me. He had his knee up here against my neck and he had me pinned down on my head. And the verbal abuse was flying. And I was just struggling, trying to get free. I just didn’t want him to do it. And of course with the struggle, that obviously woke up Holly and she came in and, well, she really didn’t understand what was going on. At first she was laughing. She thought we were playing I think. But then she realised because I was crying and he was knocking my head into the side drawer of the bed, the corner of the drawer. And then Holly was hitting Alan. I said to him, ‘Look what you’re doing. Don’t do this in front of the children’. And it didn’t register with him straight away. But within, I would say about 30 seconds, which seemed like an awfully long time with what he was doing, he must have realised what he was doing. Holly was standing there staring at him. I can’t really remember what Claudia – the baby – was doing and he loosened his grip, and I just ran out of that house as fast as I could. I didn’t even bother looking back”.

Christine reported this attack to the police, by January of 1994 — the police had come and spoken to Alan about the event and he was bitter. The next time Christine came to pick up the children, Alan held a knife to Christine’s throat, “… he was furious… And he gibbered on a fair bit and he had this knife. And he actually had me round the throat. But we calmed it down through conversation…. He kept saying that we should spend more time as a family together. More time for the sake of the children. And I said, ‘Yes, we’ll talk about it, but not just now’. He wanted the ideal family. Perfection. He always said to me, ‘We’ve got a successful business. We’ve got a beautiful house. We’ve got three beautiful children. What more do you want’. You know. And I said to him, ‘It’s not what money can buy’. And [then] I left with the two younger ones”.


2nd of February 1994. The evening of. 

“I was returning the younger two children to the house. Alan wouldn’t let me have Tiffany during that access time. He claimed she didn’t want to be with me. I had to start work at 5.30 and I had to drop the children off at 5.00. So I was up at the house right on 5 o’clock. I remember just driving up to the top of the drive. And Alan was shutting the garage door. And Tiffany was inside and her friend was in there as well. I took Claudia’s car seat out and Alan took out Holly. As he was taking Holly’s car seat out, my driver’s window was down. And he put his hand in and grabbed the keys out of the ignition. And he held them in his hand. And I said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘Who’s this lawyer friend?’ There was a friend that was taking me out and he was a lawyer. But there was no relationship, no involvement. He was just a friend. And anyway, I didn’t know what Alan had heard”.

“And then he pushed me up against the wall and then he said, ‘Who’s this lawyer friend?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’. And he said, ‘Stan’. And I said, ‘Oh, you’ve got it wrong. He’s just a friend’. And then he lifted up my skirt. And he said, ‘Has he been here?’ And he ripped my underclothes and said, ‘Has he been here?’ And he grabbed my breast and twisted it. And so of course I struggled with him and tried to get my keys back. The whole time I was trying to peel his fingers back and get the keys, and he was just pushing me up against this wall, and kept knocking my head against it. And that’s how I whacked my elbow and it came up pretty sore and it was bleeding. And I kneed him. And punched him in the nose. And gouged him in the eyes – I did everything I possibly could. And the hand that he had my keys in – I actually got him round the wrist with both my hands and slammed it into the wall. Which is a roughcast wall, and it made all his knuckles bleed. And that’s the blood I had on my shirt, along with what was on my elbow, and my nose was bleeding”.

“And I was crying, and Holly was beating Alan. And Tiffany was in the kitchen. It’s like a glass house kitchen with tinted windows and Claudia was crawling along the bench. She was half out the window. And Tiffany was just staring out with this glazed look, in disbelief really, I think, but she had a funny grin on her face like I’ve never seen before. Her friend Lisa was absolutely horrified. And Alan just kept going and going and going”.

“And he said, ‘Well, why don’t you step inside and we’ll talk about it?’ And I said, ‘I’m not going in. Just give me my bloody keys’. And he said, ‘Well, say please’. And I said, ‘Please’ and he just held his hand out like that. So I grabbed my keys and hopped in the car, wound the windows up and locked the doors. And Tiffany came running out and stood by Alan’s side and Holly was crying. I don’t know where Claudia was. And all I could hear him saying to Tiffany was, ‘See what I mean about your mother. See how crazy your Mum is’. It was just incredible. She was just standing right next to him. And he said, ‘Look at her!’”.

“And Tiffany was watching the whole thing that was going on. She didn’t say anything. She just had this peculiar look on her face. But her best friend was standing next to her absolutely horrified. And Tiffany – like emotionally she was torn. And she didn’t really know who to go to. But Alan just kept talking, talking, talking. And it seemed to – you know – encourage her more to his direction. And I said to Tiffany, before I went down the driveway, ‘Tiffany, one day you’re going to find out the truth, and I’m always going to be there for you’”.

“I went home. And I didn’t really know what to do. My mind was all over the place. And I knew I looked a mess and I didn’t want to be seen like that, with the blood and everything on my shirt. Ian, my flatmate, was there with his children and luckily they were down in the kitchen. And I said, ‘I need to speak to you’ and I ran into my room. And he came in and he said, ‘Oh my God’. He said, ‘You know what to do’. And we actually had a blazing argument. And I said, ‘Look, it’s not worth losing a friend over’. I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m going to go over to the police station now’. And he said, ‘Do you want me to ring them?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m going in there now’. So I changed my skirt, my underclothes, and put them all in a bag and went into the police station”.

Christine reported the incident to police. The next day, she was examined by a police doctor and photographs were taken of her bruising. The police also visited Tiffany’s friend who witnessed the attack and she corroborated Christine’s version of the attack.


The next day, Alan Bristol was arrested and charged with indecent assault. He was promptly released on bail, it was during this time that Alan also discovered that Christine had applied for sole custody of the three children. Alan was evidently worried about the potential prison time associated with the indecent assault. That evening, Alan reportedly said to his mother Patricia Bristol, “Mum, it’s serious … if she can make an assault charge stick, I get 10 years; if she can make an indecent assault charge stick, I get 20 years. But mum, the worst thing is that she’s going for custody.”

The following night, the 4th of February 1994, Alan Bristol was at Marybank Road in Wanganui with his three children that were asleep in their beds — seven-year-old Tiffany, three-year-old Holly and eighteen-month-old Claudia. Alan transferred the three sleeping children into the garage and into his Suzuki hatchback car. The three children were placed in the back seat.

Alan Bristol attached one end of the swimming-pool’s hose to the exhaust pipe of his hatchback car and he placed the other end in the front passenger window. Alan sat in the driver’s seat and turned on the ignition. Slowly, carbon monoxide filled the small hatchback, soon breathing became more difficult and within fifteen minutes all four occupants of the vehicle were dead — dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The next morning, Alan’s father George Bristol arrived at the property. He wandered the grounds, finding no one about. As he looked around, George checked the garage to see if the car was in. When George looked inside, he discovered the deceased corpses of his son and three grandchildren.


Three days later, the 8th of February 1994, Christine Bristol buried her three daughters, 7-year-old Tiffany, 3-year-old Holly and 18-month-old Claudia in Whanganui’s Aramoho Cemetery. The three girls were buried together with their favourite teddy bears, dolls and photos of their mother.

Fig 1. The Bristol Family Headstone.

In the plot next to the girls lay the man who took their lives, their father — Alan Bristol. Christine decided to bury them all together, “He is their father and they were all conceived in love…. What’s done is done, you can’t undo it…. It just rests easy with me that they are all together.”

In the subsequent years, Christine thought much about her three children and why Alan decided to do what he did. Christine believes the motivation was one last punishment for leaving him, “I think he knew that he was going to be revealed for the person he was. And because of that he was definitely going to lose custody and he couldn’t handle that. And he couldn’t handle the fact that he lost, I think… And killing them was a last desperate dig at me. He knew I couldn’t have any more children and he knew that I adored them as much as him. So what would be the way to hurt me but to take what was most precious. But he’s cheated them out of life … out of having their own children, getting married … just life”.


In 1995, due in part to the campaigning of Christine Bristol, the law was changed to help protect children in custody disputes where violence was alleged. The new provisions banned unsupervised contact with the children by any parent alleged to have been violent towards the children or their other parent. The provisions became known as the ‘Bristol clauses’.

However, 19-years-later, on the 31st of March 2014 — with the Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill, the ‘Bristol clauses’ were replaced with a new clause that, “would enable a broader inquiry into any situation that might pose a risk to a child’s safety (e.g. relocation, new partner of a parent, exposure to drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness)”.


Today, Christine Bristol lives in rural Waikato. She has made a living working in the social services sector. In 2000, she married her current husband, Dean — a marriage she describes as loving.

While nothing could replace her three daughters, when Christine married Dean she gained three stepdaughters, Jayde, Alexa and Zara — all roughly around the same age as Tiffany, Holly and Claudia would be if they were alive today, “With the stepchildren, I’ve been lucky enough to have them longer. They are very, very special… Zara was born five days after the girls died… Children are precious, I would have loved to have had more children”. Christine also is a grandmother, with one of her grandchildren named Holly — after Christine’s own daughter.

Christine tries to keep the memories of her daughters alive, “I talk about them all the time. They give me great pride, because you know they were great kids. Tiffany was a good student, very good, excelled. She made friends easily … Both male and female – she always had little boyfriends… [Holly] could climb like hell … She had a wicked lisp… She had tomato sauce on everything, including roasts… [Claudia was a thumb-sucker, the] orthodontist bills would have been huge”.

Christine suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from the tragedy and has bouts with depression. Nevertheless, she tries to live her life to the best of her ability, “I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, he’s taken the most precious things from me, I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that he won… Life is worth living, you can’t take away the memories”.


This episode of True Crime NZ could not be produced without the help of Ruth Busch and Neville Robertson who wrote the paper ‘I Didn’t Know Just How Far You Could Fight: Contextualising The Bristol Inquiry’. Many of the quotes from Christine Bristol you heard in this episode came from this paper and it is a remarkable piece of writing. We very much recommend a read if you are interested in learning more about this case or its themes. 

As always, stay safe my friends, peace.


NZ Herald, Tragedy in a picture-perfect Kiwi family,, Faces of Innocents: Dad’s killing of three daughters becomes a force for law change,
Menz Issues, Davison Report into familycaught$ – Christine Bristol And Alan Bristol,
The Guardian, Living death,
Wikipedia, Whanganui,
Legacy, George Albert BRISTOL,
NZ Herald, Child inquiry reforms endanger women,,wife%2C%20Christine%2C%20in%201994.
NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse, Family Court changes in effect from 31 March 2014,

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