Occasionally criminal cases remain talking points long after the verdicts. There have been three in New Zealand in the last few decades, including that of Mark Lundy, alleged to have murdered his wife Christine in 2000 for an insurance payout to prop up his ailing business, as well as Amber, his daughter, who saw it.
The 2015 retrial, when he was defended by David Hislop QC and Ross Burns, has just ended. First time around the prosecution decided that the deaths had occurred at around 6.45pm. This was based on the victims’ stomach contents, a now discredited way of fixing a time of death.
But Lundy was miles away from the scene then and would have had to make a high-speed drive to get there; one which was almost impossible in the time. To back their claim, the prosecution produced a woman describing herself as psychic who could identify Lundy as being near the scene.
Lundy’s alibi was not an appealing one. He was with a prostitute in a motel. There was also some highly disputed ‘brain tissue’ found on his clothes weeks after the killings. The prosecution went expert witness-shopping and found a Texan pathologist who used controversial immunohistochemistry testing to determine the brain material samples.
Lundy was convicted and sentenced to life with a minimum of 17 years, upped on appeal to 20. Further appeals failed, but eventually a letter turned up from a potential prosecution witness challenging the Texan evidence. It had not been disclosed to the defence. In 2013 the Privy Council quashed the conviction.
At the retrial there was a complete volte-face by the prosecution, recalling our earlier Confait case when the time of death was revised after a defendant produced a cast-iron alibi. On further analysis the time of the Lundys’ deaths was not 6.45pm, but six hours later, well after Lundy’s lady disappeared into the night. The woman with psychic tendencies was replaced with the inevitable prison informer to add to the prosecution case.
The defence had an answer to nearly every allegation, but again Lundy, unpopular with the general public, was convicted. However, this case still has mileage in it.
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor