19 Feb 2015

Police recreate Mark Lundy's alleged trip

8:27 am on 19 February 2015

Police testing how much fuel would be used to imitate what they allege were Mark Lundy's movements used more petrol than his car's tank would hold, the High Court in Wellington has been told.

Mark Lundy on day three of the trial.

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

Mark 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 unable to siphon petrol from Mark Lundy's car without breaking spring-loaded flap.
  • Only two petrol thefts between July 2000 and February 2001 in the area of the Petone motel Mark Lundy stayed in.
  • 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.
  • Police use more fuel than Mark Lundy's car holds when recreating what they say were his movements.

Mr Lundy was on business in the Wellington area on 29 August and the police allege he entertained a prostitute in his Petone motel room before driving to Palmerston North in the early hours of 30 August, killing his wife and daughter and returning to Petone.

On the opening day of the trail, 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 his car was nearly empty again, and contended there must have been "a secret trip".

Sergeant Danny Johanson told the court on Wednesday 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 visits 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 his car had a 68-litre capacity.

Earlier in the day, 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.

He used a 1.5m long piece of 12mm thick garden hose to try to siphon the petrol but found he could not get it into the tank as it was hampered by a spring-loaded flap.

He 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.

Detective Sergeant Murray Rei told the court there were only two reported petrol thefts near Mr Lundy's Petone motel between July 2000 and February 2001.

Mark Lundy's phone calls under spotlight

Cellphone records read to the court on Wednesday showed Mr Lundy tried to contact his wife, on various phones, at least six times on the morning of 30 August. The records also showed Mr Lundy did not use his cellphone between 12.37am and 8.54am on 30 August.

The court was on Tuesday told Mr Lundy tried to buy 44 hectares of land in the Hawke's Bay for $2 million to develop into a vineyard, and planned to raise the capital for the land and development through shares and mortgage bonds.

He needed to attract investments of at least $2.8 million within four months of the prospectus for the company, Winegrowers' Ltd, being launched; just $108,500 was committed and the plan fell over about the time his wife and daughter were killed.

Allan Clarke, a horticulture and viticulture specialist for more than 40 years, on Tuesday told the court he looked at the land for Mr Lundy and appraised it as being suitable for vineyard development.

His report was included in the prospectus - a document he did not see until a few months ago and which he described as being "short on detail" and having figures which were "quite rounded, almost as if they'd been taken from another prospectus".

He estimated it would have cost about $2.14 million to develop the vineyard, and that excluded such things as water reticulation and staffing.

He also said a manager would need to be on site from day one, at a cost of about $60,000 a year; Mr Lundy had told people he would be earning $80,000 a year managing the vineyard from afar, and that it would take only a few hours a week.

Mr Clarke said he recommended the land to American buyers after the sale to Mr Lundy fell through, and that they developed it into Paritua Vineyards.

However, they lost the vineyard during the 2008 recession and it was now owned by Chinese interests.

Police forensic accountant Reginald Murphy on Tuesday gave detailed evidence of the Lundys' financial position at the time of the deaths, including their personal finances, those of their kitchen sink distribution company Marchris Enterprises and the proposed vineyard venture, Winegrowers Ltd.

Asked whether they were solvent as at 29 August 2000, Mr Murphy said: "Probably not".

He said Marchris Enterprises had, for some time, traded on the goodwill of its principal creditor and the bank and "without that support, no, it wouldn't have been viable".

Winegrowers Ltd had nothing, Mr Murphy said.

"In fact, if anything it had a liability with the Inland Revenue."

* 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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