2 Apr 2015

The horror of the Lundy trial

3:08 am on 2 April 2015

A noise in the night woke Amber Lundy in the early hours of 30 August, 2000. She stumbled from her bed to her parents' room, leaving her favourite soft toy tangled in the covers, her path lit by the toilet light left on to ward off childhood monsters.

Marky Lundy

Mark Lundy in the High Court in Wellington. Photo: RNZ

But no light could ward off the monster in her parents' bedroom that night, the sight of her mother being attacked by her father wielding an axe or tomahawk surely too much for Amber's young mind to take in.

She turned to flee but her death warrant had already been signed; her father had seen her and she stood no chance of leaving that room alive.

The first blow came while she was still on her feet, the remaining ones rained down while she lay prone in the doorway, blood and brain staining her light brown hair and spilling on to the floor.

Her mother couldn't protect her precious only child; she lay dead in her waterbed, her face unrecognisable, pieces of her brain and skull on the bedside table, the wall, the floor.

A jury in the High Court at Wellington today convicted Amber's father, Mark Lundy, of the murders of seven-year-old Amber and her 38-year-old mother, Christine - the second time he has been found guilty of the crime.

The 56-year-old's first conviction came in 2002 and he was sentenced to life in jail with a 17-year non-parole period. That was increased on appeal to 20 years.

But the Privy Council overturned that conviction in 2013, saying it was based on unsafe evidence.

It found the method used to test the speck of brain tissue found on Mark Lundy's polo shirt, which the Crown said was from Mrs Lundy, was controversial and there was reason to doubt its accuracy.

It also said since the first trial, a "welter of evidence" from reputable consultants had cast doubt on the methods the Crown had relied on to establish the time of death based on the contents of the victims' stomachs.

Jurors in the second trial listened to 35 days of evidence and submissions from 135 witnesses before finding Lundy guilty, the Crown's argument he killed his wife for her insurance money and his daughter because she caught him killing her mother too compelling for it to ignore.

Crown prosecutor Philip Morgan QC, opens the trial.

Crown prosecutor Philip Morgan QC, opening the trial. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson


Lead prosecutor Philip Morgan, QC, told in his closing argument of a family in "financial crisis" and facing a catastrophe.

The couple's kitchen sink and tap business, Marchris Enterprises, constantly owed its parent company about $100,000 - although the defence said it was also owed about that much - and the family lived in a house worth $115,000 but owed $96,000 to the bank, giving them equity of only $19,000.

Despite that, Lundy agreed to unconditionally buy two plots of land in Hawke's Bay for $2 million to develop a vineyard.

He continually failed to meet deadlines for paying for the Hawke's Bay land and was eventually given a final deadline to pay up or face a $100,000 penalty and lose the land. That deadline was 30 August - the day the bodies of his wife and child were found.

Lundy also owed $465,000 for vine cuttings already bought for the development and had already claimed back the GST on them.

The vineyard venture was to be funded through shares and mortgage bonds; Lundy needed to attract investment of at least $2.8 million for it to proceed but raised only $108,500.

Mrs Lundy - described by all as an extremely private person - began raising concerns about their financial position with friends and family in the months before her death.

But Lundy assured all and sundry the finance was in hand and often spoke of an English investor who was good for £500,000.

That so-called investor was a Kiwi living in Britain at the time who told the court she had heard about the venture from a family friend. She liked wine and expressed an interest in seeing the prospectus.

She was "mostly interested in the free cases of wine" offered on the investment, and was looking to invest about £3000. Instead she received an email directly from Lundy outlining what the return would be on an investment of £526,000 ($NZ1.75 million at the time) - the amount he believed she had to invest.

The woman, who had name suppression, said she simply turned off the computer as the proposal was so far removed from her reality she did not even know how to respond to it. She did not have that sort of money, or know anyone who did - then or now.

Lundy remained blithely unaware the woman was not the answer to his financial woes but two days before the bodies of his wife and daughter were found, he told the man acting as agent for one of the land sellers he would go bankrupt if he had to pay $100,000 on 30 August.

"He was quite short with his words. He wasn't like he had been before," Michael Porter told the court.

Lundy also told the family's cleaner, Rowena Collett, he would go bankrupt if the venture did not attract any investors.

Ms Collett told the court she noticed "tension" between the Lundys when she arrived to do the cleaning on 28 August and "felt like I'd interrupted something".


Lundy left the next day for a business trip to Wellington and stayed at the Petone Foreshore Motor Lodge, where he ate a roast chicken meal bought from Pak n' Save, snacked on pretzels and camembert, drank rum and had sex with a prostitute.

Christine, Mark and Amber Lundy.

Christine, Mark and Amber Lundy - in earlier times. Photo: SUPPLIED

The prostitute was at his room for about an hour, leaving about 12.45am. He claimed he then went to bed; the jury believed the Crown, that he in fact jumped in his car, drove to Palmerston North, killed his family, then drove back to Petone, where he calmly checked out the next morning.

The viciousness of the attacks on Mrs Lundy and Amber left their blood all over the master bedroom. Amber was slain in the doorway and her blood was found 3.8m away.

The Crown said Lundy was motivated by his wife's insurance money; they had increased their cover from $205,000 to $500,000 each in the weeks before her death.

Lundy tried to make the attack look like a burglary gone wrong, taking his wife's large jewellery box and smearing her blood on a window to make it look like a forced entry.

The jewellery box has never been found but much was made of a silver bracelet found in Lundy's car which he said he had never seen before.

Also found in the car was the evidence which, ultimately, could not be explained away; two spots of matter identified by six experts - both prosecution and defence - as central nervous system (CNS) tissue from the brain or the spinal cord.

The CNS was found on Lundy's XXL polo shirt, which was inside out in a suit bag in the car. Also found on the shirt was DNA which was one billion billion times more likely to come from Mrs Lundy than anyone else.

The defence argued the DNA could have been mucus, the CNS from an animal as Lundy was the cook of the house.

Clearly that argument did not work for the jury, perhaps convinced by Mr Morgan's absolute certainty about one thing: "No husband should have his wife's brain on their shirt."

So why did the wee girl who had been tucked up in bed, the light warding off the monsters, have to die? Mr Morgan put it simply: "Amber was collateral damage."

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

Look back at the trial, week by week