27 Feb 2015

Lundy trial: concerns over evidence contamination

12:44 pm on 27 February 2015

A forensic scientist has given evidence in the High Court at Wellington about his concerns of contamination of evidence occurring during the investigation of Mark Lundy's home.

Mark Lundy looking at the jury as they enter the court room.

Mark Lundy looking at the jury as they enter the court room. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Lundy, 56, is accused of murdering his 38-year-old wife, Christine, and seven-year-old daughter, Amber, whose 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.

Defence lawyer David Hislop, QC, today asked Institute of Environmental and Scientific Research (ESR) forensic scientist Bjorn Sutherland about concerns he raised around the scene being contaminated during luminol testing.

Mr Hislop referred Mr Sutherland to his notes on a conversation between himself and inquiry head Ross Grantham.

Mr Sutherland said stepping plates - used to stop contamination - had to be removed to luminol test the floor and he was concerned some areas which showed positive for blood could have been caused by the footwear of investigators.

However, luminol testing was always carried out after most of the blood samples had been collected, he said.

Mr Sutherland has been giving evidence since Wednesday and said numerous blue and orange paint chips were found in the blood and pieces of skull washed from Mrs Lundy's body.

They were also found in the sheet taken from her bed, and in "debris" taken from Amber's body.

The prosecution had previously told of Mr Lundy's habit of painting his tools with orange and blue paint to identify them as his own, and Mr Sutherland said the paint appeared to match paint on a crescent spanner taken from the Lundy family home for comparison.

The areas around the victims' bodies was searched for paint flakes but the wider house was not, and said it would unusual to do so.

Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) forensic scientist Bjorn Sutherland.

ESR forensic scientist Bjorn Sutherland. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

However, when Mr Hislop questioned whether there was the potential for paint flakes to already be in the house, he said he "couldn't exclude that".

He also could not exclude the possibility that paint flakes could have gotten into the house from footwear worn in the garage, where the tools were kept, he said.

Mr Hislop said paint flakes could have gotten into Mrs Lundy's hair if she had gone into the garage on 29 August, and asked how long such flakes would stay in someone's hair and on their body.

Mr Sutherland said it depended on a range of factors, such as how many pieces were distributed over the surface originally and the surface they were on; hair was a poor holder of trace evidence while a woollen jersey was good.

The activity of the person also had an impact, and it was possible for all trace evidence to fall off the clothing or hair of a person.

But Mr Hislop yesterday questioned why no paint fragments were found on Mr Lundy's clothes, in his car or in the motel room he stayed in the night his wife and daughter were killed.

"I'm right, aren't I, as far as you're aware, absolutely no paint fragments in his clothes, vehicle, motel room," he said.

Mark Lundy's lead lawyer David Hislop

Mark Lundy's lead lawyer David Hislop Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Sutherland agreed none were found but said he had not conducted any examinations which would find any.

The trial in the High Court at Wellington, before Justice Simon France and a jury of seven men and five women, continues.

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