Lat­est le­gal twist in Lundy mur­der

Weekend Herald - - NEWS - Jared Sav­age

The sci­en­tific test to iden­tify spots on a shirt as hu­man brain tis­sue is the crit­i­cal is­sue in Mark Lundy’s ap­peal against his mur­der con­vic­tions.

A high- pow­ered le­gal team, headed by Jonathan Ea­ton QC, will ap­pear in the Court of Ap­peal on Tues­day to ar­gue Lundy suf­fered a mis­car­riage of jus­tice at his re­trial in 2015.

He was con­victed, for the sec­ond time, of the mur­ders of his wife Chris­tine and daugh­ter Am­ber in Au­gust 2000.

The most cru­cial ev­i­dence against Lundy were two stains on his polo shirt.

Dr Laeti­tia Si­jen, from a lab­o­ra­tory in the Nether­lands, tested the spots for molec­u­lar ma­te­rial called RNA.

Some t ypes of RNA can only be found in one type of cell, so Dr Si­jen com­pared the two shirt sam­ples with “mark­ers” to re­act with hu­man brain tis­sue.

For one sam­ple, there were no pos­i­tive re­ac­tions for hu­man brain tis­sue. For the sec­ond, there were seven pos­i­tive re­ac­tions out of a pos­si­ble 12.

This led Dr Si­jen to the con­clu­sion the tis­sue was prob­a­bly hu­man.

Although this was strongly crit­i­cised by de­fence ex­perts as flawed ex­per­i­men­tal science, the Crown used Dr Si­jen’s ev­i­dence with dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect.

“Put it all to­gether and Mark Lundy has Chris­tine Lundy’s brain on his shirt. And no hus­band should have his wife’s brain on his shirt,” pros­e­cu­tor Philip Mor­gan QC said in his clos­ing ad­dress.

“Not when she’s been mur­dered by hav­ing her skull cracked open and her brain’s been splat­tered ev­ery­where.”

Next week, Lundy’s de­fence lawyers will ar­gue the jury should never have heard the RNA ev­i­dence at his sec­ond trial.

This was be­cause RNA anal­y­sis is not suit­able to be used in a foren­sic set­ting, ac­cord­ing to Lundy’s no­tice of ap­peal re­leased to the Week­end Her­ald in 2015.

“It was cru­cial and cen­tral to the Crown case, and re­mains in real sci­en­tific dis­pute,” Lundy wrote.

“I say that it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect a jury to de­ter­mine such com­plex is­sues of sci­en­tific dis­pute.”

The hear­ing in the Court of Ap­peal is the lat­est le­gal twist since Chris­tine and Am­ber Lundy died in their Palmerston North home in Au­gust 2000.

Lundy was con­victed of their mur­ders in 2002. He failed to have his con­vic­tions over­turned and the Court of Ap­peal in­creased the min­i­mum time Lundy must serve in prison to 20 years.

But af­ter a cam­paign led by Auck­land busi­ness­man Ge­off Le­vick, those con­vic­tions were over­turned by the Privy Coun­cil in Lon­don in 2013.

The Law Lords found a mis­car­riage of jus­tice had oc­curred on a num­ber of grounds, in­clud­ing the science used to iden­tify brain tis­sue and the time of death for the vic­tims.

But t wo years later, Lundy was con­victed again af­ter a re­trial in the High Court at Wellington.

The Crown made sig­nif­i­cant changes to the prose­cu­tion case against Lundy af­ter the Privy Coun­cil rul­ing.

One claim not re­peated was Lundy mak­ing a 300km round trip in less than three hours to com­mit the mur­ders.

Pic­ture / Mark Mitchell

Mark Lundy was twice found guilty of mur­der­ing his wife and daugh­ter.

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