19 Feb 2015

Petrol use questioned in Lundy trial

11:26 am on 19 February 2015

Police recreating what they claim were Mark Lundy's movements the day his wife and daughter died used more petrol than his car's tank could hold to travel a lesser distance, his defence says.

Mark Lundy on the first day of his trial.

Mark Lundy at the High Court in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Lundy, 56, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Christine, 38, and seven-year-old Amber Lundy, whose bodies were found in their Palmerston North home on 30 August 2000. His retrial, before Justice Simon France and a jury of seven men and five women, is in its second week in the High Court in Wellington.

The Crown contends he killed his wife for her insurance money, and his daughter because she saw what he was doing to her mother.

Key points from day eight:

  • Police use more fuel than Mark Lundy's car holds when recreating what they say were his movements.
  • Police tests show Mark Lundy's trip took more fuel than his car's tank holds.
  • Police unable to siphon petrol from Mark Lundy's car without breaking spring-loaded flap.
  • Cellphone records show Mark Lundy tried to contact his wife at least six times the day the bodies of her and her daughter were found.
  • Records also show no calls from Mark Lundy's cellphone between 12.37am and 8.54am the day the bodies were found.
  • Ford expert tells court driving style can impact upon fuel consumption.
  • Only two petrol thefts between July 2000 and February 2001 in the area of the Petone motel Mark Lundy stayed in.

On the opening day of the trial, the Crown said Mr Lundy, who had a habit of running his car until it was nearly empty, had filled it up on the evening of 29 August.

However, when police stopped him as he drove into Palmerston North the next morning after an overnight business trip to Wellington his car was nearly empty again. They said there must have been "a secret trip" - a round trip to Palmerston North to kill his family.

Sergeant Danny Johanson told the court yesterday he used a similar vehicle to Mr Lundy's Ford Falcon to recreate his movements.

On cross-examination, defence lawyer Julie-Anne Kincade asked him to confirm he used 76.1 litres of fuel to visit the businesses Mr Lundy had been to, drive back up to Palmerston North, back to Petone and then return to Palmerston North.

He agreed that it was 76.1 litres - prompting Ms Kincade to point out Mr Lundy's petrol tank had a capacity of only 68 litres.

Ms Kincade also contended Mr Johanson had not visited all the businesses Mr Lundy had during his business trip, and that he would have used even more petrol if he had.

"There were a few places missed out," she said.

"The actual distance Mr Lundy must have done would have been more than what you did."

Mr Johanson disagreed and said even if he had missed some places, they were in the same area as the ones he had visited.

Also yesterday, Ford consumer experience consultant Glen Smelt, who now lives in Darwin but previously worked for Ford in New Zealand, said a 1999 Ford Fairmont Ghia - similar to Mr Lundy's Ford Fairmont EL - had a fuel tank capacity of 68 litres.

Ford claimed that vehicle would use 12.5 litres of petrol per 100km in the city, and 7.6 litres per 100km on the open road; the Australian Green Guide, which gives fuel economy figures for a range of vehicles, puts the figures at 14.5 litres/100km in the city and 9 litres/100km on the open road.

Mr Smelt said people who accelerated quickly, and those who had their foot on and off the accelerator, could use more fuel than smoother drivers, and road conditions could also make a difference.

Nigel Withell, who in 2000 was a police detective in Palmerston North, told the court he was asked to try to siphon petrol from Mr Lundy's car in 2001.

However, he was hampered by a spring-loaded flap and was only able to successfully siphon petrol after using a screwdriver to hold the flap in place - and that broke the flap.

There had been no damage to the petrol cap or flap before he started the test, Mr Withell said.

* Clarification - For the avoidance of doubt, please note that Radio New Zealand reporter Sharon Lundy is no relation to Mark Lundy.

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