The most compelling piece of evidence in the case against convicted killer Mark Lundy was initially treated with scepticism by detectives who thought brain tissue found on Lundy’s shirt could be ‘snot’ or ‘spit’.
Palmerston North pathologist Cynric Temple-Camp has detailed his involvement in what he described as the “bizarre and complicated” murder case, including patiently explaining to police what brain tissue looks like, in his soon to be released book The Cause of Death.
Lundy is serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife Christine and daughter Amber, seven, who were found bludgeoned to death in their Palmerston North home in August 2000.
Lundy was on a business trip at the time and has always maintained his innocence, but has twice been convicted of the murders in 2002 and at a retrial in 2015.
He has appealed his latest convictions, and the appeal will be heard in October.
While the Crown case against Lundy was largely circumstantial and contentious after police initially said Lundy had made an incredibly fast and dangerous cross-country drive in the middle of the night to murder his family a piece of tissue discovered on one of Lundy’s shirts sealed his convictions.
DNA testing later linked the tissue to Christine.
Temple-Camp is a South African pathologist who has worked in Palmerston North for 30 years and his book covers his time in the field including working on various local crimes.
In two chapters devoted to the high profile Lundy case, Temple-Camp said two months after the murders a detective presented him with a small slide containing a smear of biological matter measuring just half a millimetre.
Three attending pathologists and two registrars agreed the smear was brain matter after observing the sample had blood vessels consistent with deep tissue, contrary to the “sceptical” detective’s suggestion the matter could have been spit, or snot, Temple-Camp wrote.
The small tissue was sent for testing in the United States, and Texan pathologist Dr Rodney Miller confirmed it was brain matter and later gave evidence at trial.
Temple-Camp described the tissue as a “very lucky break” for prosecutors, noting it was small enough to have dried and perfectly preserved itself on the shirt, therefore escaping the attention of Lundy who could have removed it.
“The defence was grasping at straws. Christine’s brains were unequivocally on Mark’s shirt and everybody knew it, especially the jury.”
Lundy’s latest appeal will be heard in October with appeal notices indicating the brain tissue was still a matter of dispute.
The notices show Lundy’s defence team will argue that the science behind the tissue identification was too complex for jurors to understand.
Lundy is not eligible for parole until 2022, having already served 15 years behind bars.
The Cause of Death is released August 1.
All proceeds will go to the Palmerston North Helicopter Rescue Trust.
New Zealand Herald