“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.
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.