23 Mar 2015

Court hears of two different Mark Lundys

5:09 am on 23 March 2015

Mark Lundy told police he and his wife grossed out young relations with their public displays of affection; a fellow prisoner claims Mr Lundy told him his wife had her violent death coming to her.

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Mark Lundy Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Lundy, 56, is accused of murdering his 38-year-old wife, Christine Lundy, and seven-year-old daughter, Amber. Their bodies were found in their Palmerston North home on 30 August 2000; the Crown claims Mr Lundy killed his wife for her insurance money and Amber because she saw what he was doing to her mother.

He was found guilty in 2002 but the Privy Council ordered a retrial, which today enters its seventh week.

Last week a picture was painted of two very different Mark Lundys. By his own account to police the family was close, the couple loved up and they had no enemies; "Witness X", a fellow prisoner who briefly met Mr Lundy, told of a prison yard murder confession.

The seven-man, five-woman jury in the High Court at Wellington has just over of a week of evidence still to come before it must decide who it believes.

Witness X:

Witness X, who has name suppression, told the court he was in jail in 2002 when a man called Mark told him he would "not be there if his mother had not reported him to the police".

"He told me that he'd been planning his (crime) for a while."

Witness X thought the man was talking about beating up his wife and it was not until he saw a 2013 news item about Mr Lundy being released after successfully appealing his conviction to the Privy Council that he had a flashback to the conversation.

He immediately tried to contact police but failed; he then wrote a letter with the information with the intention of giving it to a judge in the hope of getting bail on a charge he was facing.

The letter said he had the "smoking gun of all smoking guns" and talks about a "cold-blooded murderer who has been released".

Witness X told the court he had come forward because he wanted to do the right thing for Mrs Lundy and Amber but defence lawyer Ross Burns said the letter was an offer to trade information and that it was made up.

Mr Burns also outlined the man's extensive criminal history and a probation officer's report which described him as anti-social, manipulative and with borderline personality disorders.

James Pang:

Pathologist James Pang carried out the autopsies on Mrs Lundy and Amber and was last week questioned about their estimated time of death.

The defence said at the last trial he claimed the pair had died about an hour after they ate their last meal, which at the time was thought to be McDonald's bought about 5.45pm. He based his estimate on both having full stomachs, a lack of gastric odour and a lack of digestion.

But last week he said the only thing he could be certain of was that they died between when someone last spoke to Mrs Lundy about 7pm on 29 August and when her brother, Glenn Weggery, found their bodies about 9am on 30 August.

Defence lawyer David Hislop, QC, repeatedly asked Dr Pang when he changed his mind about the timing, and he eventually said it was after the Privy Council issued its 2013 judgement that Mr Lundy should be granted a retrial.

Dr Pang, now retired, said he had not used other methods to estimate their time of death, including body temperature and rigor mortis, because doing so would have disturbed the crime scene.

He outlined the injuries of mother and daughter to the court; Mrs Lundy suffered multiple blows to her head and face, to the extent that a "substantial" part of the front of her brain was missing. She also suffered multiple fractures to her thumb, fingers and right forearm as she tried to fend off her attacker.

Amber had six cuts to her head, including the two which formed an X. "Some parts of the brain would have been lost," Dr Pang said.

Martin Sage:

Forensic pathologist Martin Sage said Dr Pang had made the right call not disturbing the bodies as determining time of death was not as important as preserving evidence. However, a written record of the decision-making process should have been made.

As well, using body temperature to determine a time of death was accurate only to within plus or minus 2.8 hours, and also depended on factors such as a person's weight; Mrs Lundy, at 112kg, would have taken much longer to cool down than Amber, at 44.7kg. The ambient temperature would also have had an effect.

Dr Sage said Dr Pang was right that the only certainty around the time of death was one to 14 hours as no one knew when Mrs Lundy and Amber ate their last meal. He considered a range of six to eight hours from when they ate as the likely time of death, given the high-fat food seen in their stomachs and the fact they died during the night, when digestion slowed.

It was also possible the pair had had a meal of fries later than their McDonald's, as fish and chip-style fries could be seen in their stomach contents.

Jennifer Curran:

Detective Jennifer Curran was a member of the suspect squad on Operation Winter - as the first investigation into Mrs Lundy and Amber's deaths was known.

She stopped Mr Lundy as he drove back into Palmerston North on 30 August, took him to the police station and, during the next two days, took his statement.

"At one stage he looked at me and said 'I've been a bit of a naughty boy'," Ms Curran said.

She asked him what he meant and he said he had used a prostitute the night before, and that he and his wife had not had sex for two to three weeks.

His statement to Ms Curran covered everything from the fact his wife like to sleep naked and read Mills and Boon books, to their plans for a winery development. He also said the couple had a lot of friends, a good social life and that he got along with everybody; he liked to take people as he found them, he said.

Mr Burns questioned Ms Curran about another man who was initially considered a suspect in the case and who has name suppression, saying he had worked with Mrs Lundy in the late 1980s and early 1990s and that police had been told the man had stalked a female employee there. An informant said the man "knew Christine Lundy and disliked her".

Ms Curran confirmed the man was considered a suspect and agreed he had said he was at home asleep - in the same suburb as the Lundys - on 29 August. However, his parents, who he lived with, said they could not be sure he was there all night.

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