16 Mar 2015

Mark Lundy trial: the fifth week

6:27 am on 16 March 2015

Christine Lundy may have been a private person in life, but in death everything about her is being laid out for the jury who must decide if her husband killed her.

Mark Lundy, 56, is accused of murdering his 38-year-old wife and seven-year-old daughter, Amber. Their 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.

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Mark Lundy. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Friends have told the seven-man, five-woman jury Mrs Lundy was a private person but that jury now knows the most personal details about her.

They had already been told she had gone off sex; last week they learned she weighed more than Sonny Bill Williams and that french fries and crinkle cut potato chips were easily identified in the contents of her stomach.

Those stomach contents will be the subject of further scrutiny this week when pathologist Dr James Pang, who performed the autopsies on Mrs Lundy and Amber, gives evidence.


Stephen Bustin

Defence witness Professor Stephen Bustin said he was reluctant to accept the results of a Dutch expert that a substance on Mr Lundy's polo shirt was brain.

The Professor of Molecular Medicine at Anglia Ruskin University in Britain gave jurors a slide show which step by step rejected evidence from prosecution witness Dr Laetitia Sijen, head of research and development in the human biological traces team of the Netherlands Forensic Institute, who had used a newly developed RNA "brain plex" to conclude the substance on the shirt was brain.

Prof Bustin said the test Dr Sijen used was invalid for many reasons, including that the positive control sample from "a freshly cut slice of brain tissue" produced only negative results in three tests; what was known to be brain tissue did not show up as such.

"That alone, in my opinion, invalidates this assay [test]," he said.

"No scientific journal would publish this data because it is invalid."

However, Prof Bustin also told the jury that "in biology, things aren't black and white ... so don't hold me to any particular thing I'm saying".

Rodney Miller

American pathologist Rodney Miller, Director of Immunohistochemistry at ProPath Laboratory in Dallas, tested the substance on the shirt in 2001 and again in 2014. All tests were "exactly as we would expect for brain tissue", he told the court.

Dr Miller repeatedly rejected the assertion from defence lawyer David Hislop, QC, that the shirt was contaminated in the ProPath lab, saying: "I don't know how much clearer I can be. The tissue was mashed into the shirt fibres.

"What I saw was brain tissue and nothing else."

Dr Miller reacted angrily when Mr Hislop questioned him on why Inspector Ross Grantham, who led the first investigation into the deaths and took the tissue to Dr Miller for testing in 2001, was not wearing protective clothing in the lab.

"Oh please. You don't get brain tissue on your shirt from eating a sandwich. I know for a fact that he would not have had brain tissue on his shirt," he said.

"That is just ludicrous."

Allan Gown

Allan Gown, medical director and chief pathologist at PhenoPath Laboratories in Seattle, agreed the substance on Mr Lundy's polo shirt was "unequivocally" central nervous system tissue from the brain or spinal cord.

"I don't know of any other tissues that would yield that pattern."

Susan Vintiner

Institute of Environmental and Scientific Research (ESR) forensic scientist Susan Vintiner told the court DNA in the substance on the polo shirt was a billion billion times more likely to be from Mrs Lundy than from someone unrelated and chosen at random.

However, Ms Vintiner agreed with defence lawyer David Hislop, QC, that someone with a heavy cold and who sneezed or coughed while ironing could leave their DNA on the item they were working on, and that that DNA could stay on the item until at least the next time it was washed.

Blood smears found on a window at the Lundy home were also 450,000 million times more likely to have come from Mrs Lundy than from someone unrelated and chosen at random, Ms Vintiner said, while blood found at the home of Mrs Lundy's brother, Glenn Weggery, was from an unknown female. It did not belong to Mrs Lundy or Amber, she said.

Sally Coulson

ESR scientist Sally Coulson, who specialises in trace analyses, said a number of unidentified fibres - all but one of which were polyester or cotton - were found in fingernail scrapings taken from Mrs Lundy and Amber.

However, none matched a polo shirt belonging to Mr Lundy and which three American pathologists have each said had central nervous system tissue - from the brain or spinal cord - on it.

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 has previously told of Mr Lundy's habit of painting his tools with orange and blue paint to identify them as his own.

Dr Coulson, who specialises in trace analyses, said for some of the paint fragments to be embedded in the bone "a painted object or implement would have had to forcibly strike the bone to get transfer of paint".

However, under cross-examination she admitted there was no way of knowing how the paint had transferred; it could have been on the skin already and been forced into the bone when she was struck.

Jonathan Oram

Detective Sergeant Jonathan Oram, who was assigned to look after Mrs Lundy's body at the scene and once it had left the house, told the court he wore hooded paper overalls, booties and gloves while at the scene.

Plastic bags were put on Mrs Lundy's feet, legs and head before she was lifted into a black body bag, which was secured with sellotape and then put into a blue, zipped outer bag.

Mr Oram said he saw an earring in the bed which was not visible until Mrs Lundy's body was removed. The mate of it was still in her other ear.

A window was taken out to allow Mrs Lundy's body to be removed from the house, and it was then taken to the morgue.

Mr Oram was present for Mrs Lundy's post mortem and said he saw in her stomach contents french fries and crinkle cut potato chips.

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