25 May 2023

Murderer Mark Lundy's parole bid denied

2:00 pm on 25 May 2023
Mark Lundy before the verdict.

In 2002 Mark Lundy was found guilty of murdering his wife Christine and daughter Amber in Palmerston North in 2000. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Lundy

Mark Lundy has been denied parole today after serving almost 21 years for the August 2000 murders of his wife and daughter in Palmerston North.

He told the Parole Board he maintained his innocence and that he did not kill wife Christine, 38, and daughter Amber, 9, in their home.

That stance proved problematic for the board, board convenor Sir Ron Young told him at a hearing in Tongariro Prison near Tūrangi this morning.

Young asked how the board was meant to assess the motivation behind the offending, and any risk, if it was not admitted and no rehabilitative work was done.

Lundy accepted the board must work on the basis he was guilty, but he said he was not.

"All I can say is I do not have high risk of reoffending because I haven't offended."

Lundy became eligible for release last year, but parole was declined after a hearing in August, and again today.

"We're satisfied that you remain an undue risk. We consider there are a number of worrying reasons to be concerned about your risk," Young told him.

The board's full written decision will include its reasons for its ruling.

Young told Lundy it would see him again in two years, by the end of April 2025.

Lundy was arrested for the murders in 2001.

Now aged 64, Lundy was found guilty at a 2002 trial in Palmerston North, but his convictions were quashed by the Privy Council in 2013 and he was released on bail for about 18 months.

In 2015 he was again found guilty at a retrial in Wellington, after which his life sentence and 20-year minimum term were reimposed.

At today's hearing, Lundy spoke about the creation of a safety plan - a document prisoners seeking parole use to identify risks stemming from their offending that might arise when they are released, and how they handle them.

Lundy had not made a safety plan before his previous hearing and when asked about its main purpose said it was to ensure he would not be recalled to jail if granted parole.

"As you're aware I will go to my death bed still saying that I did not kill my family. I cannot lie in that respect, so primarily the plan is to stop me from being recalled.

"It identifies the problems that I will face and how I'm going to work on [them]. It's a living document. It has changed since I first wrote it a number of times. I'm thinking the day I get out it will probably change again, and a week later and a month later."

Young said the documents were traditionally about issues behind offending and strategies to deal with those in the community.

He said Lundy's was not really a safety plan, as he still said he was innocent.

"I can think of nothing else I could do for you," Lundy said.

Christine, Mark and Amber Lundy.

Christine, Mark and Amber Lundy. Photo: SUPPLIED

Young reiterated that the board had to assume he was guilty.

"What we have here is you convicted of a murder where there was a high degree of planning. It was planned not only to have an alibi, but also at the scene to try and effectively mislead the police into thinking something else had happened.

"It was an extremely brutal murder of the woman, we were told, that you loved and had a child with, and had a good marriage," Young told Lundy.

"It seems probable that your daughter saw what was happening and that you killed her because she could have given evidence against you, revealing that you were the murderer, so you were prepared to sacrifice her life to ensure that you were not convicted."

Young said the board needed to understand what drove that.

A financial motive was suggested, but Lundy's defence lawyers had denied that, giving the board even less information.

There had been no analysis or understanding from Lundy about what had happened, Young said.

Lundy said it was difficult for him to answer, because he had no motive for something he did not do.

"I do not know how I can allay your reservations because.. I can't… yeah… I did not commit a crime, so there's no way I can allay the problems, I'm sorry to say," Lundy said.

"If I had committed the offence I would have put my hand up and I would have said that I have done it."

Lundy said he would have been out of prison by now if that was the case.

Young began by asking Lundy what he had achieved in prison since last August's hearing.

"I've completed the dependency treatment programme that was asked for.

"I must admit when I started that programme I did it as a box-ticking exercise because I was asked to do it, but I was pleasantly surprised at what I learnt about myself when I was on it.

"It has actually changed my life - the way I look at things."

Young asked more about this.

"I identified that I suffer from insecurity," Lundy said. "I have always done things to be accepted. I've learnt I don't need to do that. I've got to concentrate on my needs, not the wants of others...

"In prison I've closed myself off from others. This is so to avoid being perceived as vulnerable and being taken advantage of.

"When I got out [on bail] in 2013, which I thank you for, I was still in that mode. I kept things from those people behind me and I didn't need to. I would hide all the stress and the pressure that I was under. I was in a safe place and I didn't even recognise it. Those are the main things that I picked up."

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Lundy at a court appearance in 2015. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Lundy said he had also maintained contact with his supporters, including two who attended today's hour-long hearing. Their identities are suppressed.

He had kept working, saying he had a passion for timber, and had been on guided releases from prison.

He expected that, if released, there would be restrictions on him entering Palmerston North or Manawatū.

"I would like at some stage to have a guided trip to the cemetery, but apart from the cemetery there's nothing in Palmerston North for me. I have friends there but they can come and see me."

When on bail, Lundy had visited the city, as was allowed.

When questioned by board member Dr Philip Brinded, he said he went to the cemetery, where Christine and Amber were buried, seven times.

Brinded asked Lundy what he thought happened to his wife and daughter.

"There are a number of possible scenarios," Lundy said.

"For me to go over them would probably take an hour. There's no physical evidence to support any of them.

"It's all subjective evidence. It's not something that enthuses me to discuss because I get quite emotional.

"It's the worst thing that every happened in my life. Coming to prison is nothing compared to losing my family.

"There are suggestions of financial issues of other people. There are suggestions of drug involvement of other people. It's difficult for me to go over, I'm sorry."

Lundy was in Wellington on business the night of the murders. He said he had no reason to fear for his wife's safety when he left.

When asked about his ability to work, Lundy said he had some employment lined up, but a full-time job might not be possible due to medical reasons. Employers might also be reluctant to recruit him.

He will be eligible for the pension later this year.

Board member Lawrence Tawera asked about Lundy's comments about isolating himself.

Lundy said when he did so he would have irrational thoughts.

"I'm expecting an alcohol ban.

"If I started isolating myself I would probably turn to alcohol. Who knows, I could head off to Palmerston North to see my girls and it's those things that put me back in prison."

Lundy's lawyer, Julie-Ann Kincade, KC, argued he was suitable for parole.

He had a low security classification in prison, no instances of misconduct, and a good relationship with staff and other prisoners, a point a prison officer reiterated when he was asked for his input.

Lundy also had no history for violence before his convictions, Kincade said.

"It's significant that all the people who work with Mr Lundy for any length of time, without exception, speak consistently in a similar manner about his politeness and appropriate engagement, and generally his behaviour."

Psychologists found Lundy had a low risk of reoffending, and he had comprehensive plans covering his release.

"There's nothing more than can be recommended to progress his rehabilitation or reintegration in Tongariro Prison."

She said the board's concerns could have been lessened by appropriate conditions on his release, such as electronic monitoring, a curfew or a ban from involvement in financial ventures.

Lundy's behaviour on bail ahead of his retrial was good, so he could follow conditions set down.

Kincade said Lundy's denial was not a reason in itself to stop his release and she knew of other convicted killers released when they posed a low risk to society.

One of Lundy's supporters present said they would do everything they could to help reintegrate Lundy into the community.

The other supporter said they were biting their tongue because they found some of what Young was saying offensive.

Lundy's 2002 convictions were based on a Crown case that gave him slightly under three hours to return from the business trip in Wellington in rush hour traffic on 29 August, 2000, kill Christine and Amber, and return to the capital by about 8.30pm.

The Crown argued Lundy had sex with a prostitute later that night to create an alibi.

The 2015 retrial heard a different case - that the murders happened later in the night, after the encounter with the prostitute.

At both trials, Lundy was linked to the scene by specks of brain tissue found on his polo shirt.

At the first trial, the Crown called as a witness Texan pathologist Dr Rodney Miller who used a then-new technique called immunohistochemistry to identify the tissue as human.

At the retrial, the scientific evidence was based on analysis of messenger RNA, although the Court of Appeal later ruled this inadmissible.

The presence of Christine's DNA on the same area of shirt sealed Lundy's fate.

After the retrial, Lundy again appealed his convictions, but in 2019 the Supreme Court ruled that they stood.

Supporters vow to continue fight

A group of Lundy supporters, FACTUAL (For Amber and Christine, Truth Uncovered about Lundy), issued a statement, saying it was disappointing the board decided that his refusal to admit guilt meant he must stay in jail.

"For 23 years since tragically losing his family, Mark has vehemently maintained his innocence and suffered the injustice and indignity of false incarceration.

"Yet Mark has stoically served over 20 years' detention with the strength and dignity he was known for in the years prior to his wrongful convictions.

"Justice Young admitted that denial of guilt is not a requirement for parole approval. To do so would be the ultimate catch-22, potentially forcing the convicted to lie in order to get release. Mark has never lied and never will. Not even to gain his freedom."

Since the 2013 Privy Council decision the group had hoped police would reopen the case and look for "the true offender that is still at large", but instead they had prevented a more flawed circumstantial case against Lundy.

"The fight for the truth is far from over. The Criminal Cases Review Commission is still evaluating the strength and safety of the conviction.

"We are forever hopeful that once again Mark will get the opportunity to profess his innocence and that the police will be forced to go back to the beginning and properly look at the many unexplained anomalies.

"We know that if he was permitted Mark would loudly convey his sincere gratitude to family, friends, supporters, and legal teams that have stood, and continue to stand, by him for so many years."

Kincade said she was waiting for the full decision to be issued, but was considering an appeal.

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