Of Ev­i­dence

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“It doesn’t sound like some­thing we could use in court.”

“Well, no, but you asked me what it was. I’ve done both things. I’ve done an Aunt Min­nie on it, but I’ve also cross­checked.”

We moved to sit at the multi-headed mi­cro­scope in the lab. There were three pathol­o­gists present, as well as two reg­is­trars, and they all had a look at the slide. We all reached the same con­clu­sion.

“We don’t have to rely on Aunt Min­nie,” I told Ross. “We can see cells, in­clud­ing a cel­lu­lar, tubu­lar struc­ture, which is a small blood ves­sel. That tells us we’re look­ing at deep tis­sue, deeper than the sur­face of the skin.”

“What about spit?” asked Ross. “Or snot from the nose? Could it be from that?”

“No,” I said. “You’ll never find blood ves­sels in spit, snot, urine or any other body flu­ids. They have to come from deep tis­sue. And the cells are all oval with what we call spin­dle-shaped nu­clei. The nu­clei are bland in ap­pear­ance, which means they’ve had much of their cel­lu­lar ma­te­rial stripped away. But the back­ground be­tween these cells has a sub­tle, fib­ril­lary look. It doesn’t re­ally fit with any­thing other than brain tis­sue. I mean, it’s not mus­cle or thy­roid gland or pan­creas or spleen or liver. I could go on and on. It’s a long list, but I re­ally don’t think that this tis­sue can be any­thing other than brain.” The others mur­mured in a agree­ment. Ross sat in si­lence for a very long time, think­ing. Fi­nally he spoke. “Can you prove it?” “Prove that it’s brain?” He nod­ded. We all looked at each other and one af­ter an­other we shook our heads.

“No,” I said. “Not with our re­sources here. This is the only slide, I sup­pose?” Ross nod­ded. “I thought so. There’s not much on it, ei­ther. I sup­pose spe­cial stains could be tried, but it would be dif­fi­cult. Par­tic­u­larly if you are look­ing for the level of proof you need for a mur­der case.”

Ross gri­maced. I could tell that he re­ally wanted a re­sult on this one. And like most New Zealan­ders, when they came to hear the ter­ri­ble facts of the case, I was in­clined to agree.

M

stom­achs of both Chris­tine and Am­ber con­tained ap­par­ently undi­gested food, which he be­lieved was recog­nis­able as fish and chips. That was thought to be con­sis­tent with the food or­dered from Mcdon­ald’s.

There was ap­par­ently no food in the duo­de­num of ei­ther vic­tim. Since the process of gas­tric emp­ty­ing hadn’t be­gun, James con­cluded that death had oc­curred about one hour af­ter eat­ing.

Foren­sic clues started to paint an in­ter­est­ing pic­ture. Blood was found on the out­side of the latch of the open win­dow, and this proved to be Chris­tine’s. The sup­posed break-in ap­peared to have been staged. There was less petrol in Mark Lundy’s car than there should have been, if it had been driven only on the de­tailed itin­er­ary he had vol­un­tar­ily com­piled for the po­lice, and the in­di­ca­tions were that the car had trav­elled 400 kilo­me­tres fur­ther than Lundy claimed. He tried to ex­plain the dis­crep­ancy away, say­ing that there had been talk of thefts of petrol from cars around the area he’d stayed in the Lower Hutt mo­tel. If there was any shortfall in petrol, he told the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cers, then that would have to be the ex­pla­na­tion.

Mark Lundy’s tools were all painted in a dis­tinc­tive orange and blue. There was a full set of tools in his gar­den shed, but no axe. Lundy main­tained that he didn’t own an axe – an as­ser­tion con­tra­dicted by sev­eral of his ac­quain­tances.

Nor was his sub­se­quent be­hav­iour that which you might ex­pect of the be­reaved hus­band and father of the vic­tims of a bru­tal mur­der. Lundy claimed he went ev­ery night to his girls’ grave­side to have a drink with them, but he couldn’t prove he had done so. On the con­trary, he spent a good deal of time so­cial­is­ing, drink­ing, buy­ing ex­pen­sive mo­tor­bikes and, more bizarrely, even con­tin­ued his en­joy­ment of call girl ser­vices.

When I learned this last de­tail, I shook my head in dis­be­lief. I had seen plenty of griev­ing rel­a­tives over the years, and had known some of them to re­act in bizarre ways. I knew that it didn’t prove he had done it, al­though it cer­tainly re­vealed that Mark Lundy had an un­usual and dark side. But his be­hav­iour seemed ex­treme, by any stan­dard. Others were reach­ing the same con­clu­sion. Lundy’s phys­i­cal col­lapse at Chris­tine and Am­ber’s fu­neral, which was shown al­most nightly on tele­vi­sion for sev­eral days, struck many peo­ple as melo­dra­matic and un­con­vinc­ing. A psy­chol­o­gist stated in the me­dia that he was firmly of the opin­ion that the dis­play of grief was con­trived. A wit­ness came for­ward say­ing she had seen a large man with an un­usual gait wear­ing a blond wig run­ning along the road away from the Lundy house just af­ter 7pm on the night of the mur­ders. He had a hor­ror-struck look on his face. It turned out that the wit­ness was a psy­chic.

The case was avidly fol­lowed and dis­cussed in work­places all around the coun­try, and the Palmer­ston North mor­tu­ary was no ex­cep­tion. “Psy­chol­o­gists and psy­chics! What next?” I laughed to my col­leagues. “Why, with all that help, do the po­lice even need a pathol­o­gist?” The an­swer was yes, they cer­tainly did. The po­lice needed to know ex­actly what was on Mark Lundy’s shirt.

New Zealand pathol­o­gist and au­thor Dr Cyn­ric Tem­ple-camp.

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