2 Apr 2015

Lundy: the second verdict

5:53 am on 2 April 2015

Two quiet words yesterday brought to an end to the case which has transfixed the nation for 15 years: "Guilty. Guilty."

Mark Lundy before the verdict.

Mark Lundy in court yesterday before the verdict was delivered. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Lundy

With those words Mark Lundy can once again be called a double murderer, having been found guilty of the August 2000 murders of his wife and daughter.

The bodies of 38-year-old Christine Lundy and seven-year-old Amber were found in their Palmerston North home on 30 August 2000; Lundy's attacks on them, with a tomahawk or axe-like weapon, so severe that pieces of their brain were left on the bedside table, the wall, the carpet.

It was that brain that was the key to the prosecution case, lead prosecutor Philip Morgan, QC, telling the court: "No husband should have his wife's brain on their shirt."

The jury yesterday returned a unanimous verdict after hearing seven weeks of evidence. Much was scientific, some downright horrific; the jury had to view photos and video of the crime scene, including the bodies of Mrs Lundy and Amber.

More on yesterday's verdict and reaction

Justice Simon France thanked the jury for its work before sentencing Lundy to life in prison with a 20-year non-parole period. He was able to impose it immediately as the Crown and defence had both already agreed that was what would happen if a guilty verdict was returned.

The jury deliberated for about 16 hours, returning to the court only once to view video footage.

Lundy swayed slightly as the verdict was read, his mouth hanging slightly open. It was clearly not the verdict he was hoping for; he had already been convicted of the murders once, in 2002, but maintained his innocence all the way to the Privy Council which in 2013 overturned that result and ordered a retrial.

Justice Simon France talking to the jury 30/03/15

Justice Simon France Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The biggest change in the Crown arguments between 2002 and 2015 was the time of death. Back then, pathologist James Pang said the pair died within about an hour of consuming their last known meal about 6pm.

That put the time of death about 7-7.30pm, and the Crown argued Lundy raced home from Petone to Palmerston North at high speed to kill his family before returning to the comfort of a prostitute.

This time, Dr Pang said the only certainty was that they died between when they were last known to be alive about 7pm on 29 August and when their bodies were found about 9am on 30 August.

The Crown said the order this time was that Lundy entertained the prostitute before making his round "killing" trip to slaughter his family about 2am.

It highlighted discrepancies in his petrol use and the mileage on his car, and pointed to the family's increasingly desperate financial situation as a motive for the murders.

But it was two small specks of central nervous system tissue from the brain or the spinal cord which found their way on to his polo shirt that surely sealed his fate.

"The Crown's case, members of the jury, is that he's the killer, and he's the killer because he had his wife's brain on his shirt," Mr Morgan said in his closing argument.

Clearly, the jury agreed.

Detective Inspector Marc Hercock after the verdict.

Detective Inspector Marc Hercock who led the second investigation welcomed the verdict. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mark Lundy's sister Caryl Jones, centre, and her family being driven away from the High Court after the verdict.

Mark Lundy's sister Caryl Jones, centre, and her family being driven away from the High Court after the verdict. Photo: SUPPLIED / NZ Herald

Timeline of events

  • 30 August 2000: The bodies of Christine and Amber Lundy are found in their Palmerston North home. They have been bludgeoned to death.
  • 23 February 2001: Mark Lundy arrested and charged with their murders.
  • March 2002: Mark Lundy convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison with a 17-year non-parole period, increased to 20 years on appeal.
  • October 2013: Privy Council overturns Mark Lundy's conviction, saying it was based on unsafe evidence, and he is released on bail pending a re-trial.
  • 9 February 2015: Mark Lundy's retrial starts in the High Court at Wellington.
  • 30 March 2015: Retrial jury retires.
  • 1 April 2015: Mark Lundy found guilty of murdering his wife and child.

*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