Case 16: The Lundy Murders (INVESTIGATION)

PALMERSTON NORTH. MANAWATU. 30th of August 2000. 11.59am. Mark Lundy took a call from a client who wanted to place an order; Mark emotionally communicated through tears that he couldn’t right now as he was on his way home because “something happened to his wife and child”.

Mark arrived home to ‘Palmy’ about an hour and 16 minutes later at 1.15pm, police stopped Mark Lundy at the cordon about a block from 30 Karamea Crescent — they had something to tell him. Police broke the news that both his wife Christine and daughter Amber were found dead that morning. Furthermore, all signs pointed to murder. 

Visit www.truecrimenz.com for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.

Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust

Music sourced from:

Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
https://filmmusic.io/
“Crowd Hammer”, “Day of Chaos”, “Gregorian Chant”, “Leaving Home”, “Morgana Rides “, “Past the Edge”, “Stormfront”, “Tikopia”
Punch Deck
https://soundcloud.com/punch-deck
“Oppressive Ambiance”
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but I make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

30 AUGUST 2000

30th of August 2000. 7am. Petone. Mark Lundy arrived at the reception of the Foreshore Motor Lodge. He asked the manager, Bruce Sloane if he happened to have any spare batteries for his electric razor; Bruce did not. 

Mark retreated to his room; he returned to reception at 8.09am dressed and ready for check out. Mark and Bruce chatted briefly “about nothing in particular”; before Mark left to pursue the day.

Mark drove along The Esplanade, stopping twice. Once to pick up some batteries for the razor and once to pick up some breakfast. Mark parked on the foreshore. Looking out at the Wellington Harbour; Mark ate his bacon and egg sandwich and groomed his whiskers. With this, Mark was ready for a day’s work.

Mark called Christine to ask if she had the address of the client who owed them money. No answer. Mark carried on with his rounds, waiting for Christine’s return call. Mark visited Brent Potter at his joinery business in Lower Hutt, “I bought a sink tap off of [Mark] that day… it was an impulse buy… He was cheerful, the same as ever.”

Mark continued with his day. Sometime after 9.30am; Mark tried calling Christine again; someone answered — it wasn’t Christine. It was Christine’s best friend Karen Keenan. When Mark Lundy asked if he could speak to his wife; Karen replied, “… she couldn’t come to the phone because she was a bit tied up and she’d call him back.”

Sensing something was wrong. Mark called family friend and Godmother to Amber, Caroline Durham. He asked if she could go around to his place and see if anything was askew.

At 11.52am, Mark was in Johnstonville with a client when he received a call from Caroline’s husband, Stewart Durham. Stewart communicated that ‘something’ was happening at Mark’s house at 30 Karamea Crescent, Palmerston North; he didn’t know what but there was police tape outside, “I didn’t know what’d happened. I told him he better get his arse home… he said something along the lines of ‘holy shit, what’s happened?’”. Stewart communicated further that he had heard on the radio that Palmerston North police were investigating “a suspicious death”. 

Mark set off home, immediately, “He sounded like he was on his way home because he was abusing traffic or whoever and I could hear vehicles in the background”. At 11.59am, Mark took a call from a client who wanted to place an order; Mark emotionally communicated through tears that he couldn’t right now as he was on his way home because “something happened to his wife and child”.

Mark arrived home to ‘Palmy’ about an hour and 16 minutes later at 1.15pm, police stopped Mark Lundy at the cordon about a block from 30 Karamea Crescent — they had something to tell him. Police broke the news that both his wife Christine and daughter Amber were found dead that morning. Furthermore, all signs pointed to murder. 

OPERATION WINTER

The investigation into the murders of 38-year-old Christine and 7-year-old Amber Lundy was codenamed Operation Winter. Analysis of the crime scene found that the victims had been ‘hacked’ to death with a tomahawk or axe-like weapon.

Detectives found that the only missing item from the house was a jewelry box that disappeared from the master bedroom. Other items, including expensive electronics were left untouched.

Other evidence uncovered included a bloody handprint found on a pried open window at the back of the house. When the blood was analysed; police discovered it was Christines, but it was put there by someone wearing gloves. Detectives deduced that this meant the break in was staged after Christine’s murder. The question naturally becomes, why would the murderer need to stage a break in?

A theory was extracted from these findings; could the principal target have been Christine Lundy and Amber was only killed as ‘collateral damage’ when she came to see what the commotion was in her mother’s bedroom? The theory explains why Christine was attacked more savagely and why Amber was found at the doorway to her parents bedroom.

A postmortem completed by Doctor James Pang concluded that Amber Lundy had been struck with the axe-like weapon seven times to her cranium, “Seven large gaping cut wounds … 80mm in length and 5cm in depth … The major portion of the front half of the brain was missing”.

The injuries to Christine were even more extreme; she was struck a total of eighteen times in the head and face; some as severe as 8cm in depth. Christine also had injuries on her hands and forearms; implying that she was awake for part of the attack and attempted to defend herself.

Dr. Pang also discovered blue and orange flakes of paint in both the victim’s hair. When Mark worked as a carpenter; he would mark his tools with paint to identify them on-site. Interestingly, the paint found in Christine and Amber’s skull and hair matched the color and chemical composition of the paint on Mark’s tools. The painted tools were found locked in the shed at the back of the house. However, no axes or axe-like tools were inside and Mark denied ever owning an axe.

Dr. Pang concluded that based on undigested food found in the stomach of both victims that time of death occurred one hour after consuming their last meal, “The contents are possibly potato, maybe fish, maybe meat, no apparent vegetables… Most likely death has occurred within one hour of the meal.” A receipt from the previous night was on the Lundy’s kitchen table; it was time stamped at 5.43pm from the Rangitikei Street McDonald’s. Assuming the twosome ate their last meal soon after they got home; that would put the time of death at approximately 7pm.

Interestingly, the office computer which Christine would use for the administration of the kitchen sink business was found to be shutdown at 10.52pm the night of the murder. While it is possible to manipulate the clock on the computer to look like it was shut down at a later time; that would require an intermediate amount of computer literacy to achieve.

MARK THE SUSPECT

Mark Lundy was interviewed by police about his movements the previous night. Mark told the police about speaking to his wife and child at 5.30pm and Amber asking for McDonald’s. Mark then said he parked his car along the foreshore to read his Wilbur Smith book; he drank rum and read until it got too dark. 

Once the sun went down, Mark claimed to walk back over to his motel room. He drank more booze and watched some Sky Movies. He told the police about the hour visit from the prostitute at 11.45pm. Was this a common thing? The police asked. Yes, pretty common. Mark illuminated the detective about the lack of sex in his marriage — explaining he and his wife have sex once maybe every two months.

Sometime around 1am, Mark thought he better not leave the car untended on the foreshore. He drove the car across the road, feeling a bit drunk though — he decided to just leave the car in an easy park. Mark left the car outside unit 1; he walked back to unit 10 and hit the hay.

Police confiscated Mark’s car and his belongings. A cursory search of his Ford Fairmont uncovered more evidence; a bracelet. Detectives pondered, could this bracelet have come from Christine’s missing jewellery box? Further searches found no blood inside the vehicle and Mark’s clothing was sent to forensics for testing.

One week later, another clue came when a neighbour of the Lundy’s approached the police with something she saw the night of the murder. Margaret Dance told police that she was backing her car out her driveway to attend choir practice around 7.10pm when she saw a middle aged, overweight woman running towards her on the footpath, “I [wondered] what she’s running away from? I thought it was a female”. As the woman got closer, she noticed it was a man wearing a wig with a business shirt and tie underneath a track suit, “It was quite a ridiculous look… Blond hair, with corkscrew curls.” She spoke of the man’s demeanor, “…. he looked absolutely terrified or frightened, [with] a ‘let me get out of here quickly’ expression”.

Margaret told detectives that she heard about the murders the next day and when she saw a picture of Mark Lundy recently; she identified him as the ‘blond wigged runner’. Additionally, she told police that she had used her extrasensory perception (ESP) psychic powers and had a vision that the jogger’s clothes had been disposed of in a skip bin near Wellington. When asked if she used her psychic powers to recall the night of the ‘blond wigged runner’, Margaret replied, “I deliberately shut them out… I did not use them… things came to me… I have a photographic memory and it is like going back to a picture and seeing more detail.”

On the 7th of September 2000, Christine and Amber Lundy’s funeral was held and televised nationally at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Palmerston North. Mark was seen dramatically grieving and collapsing in anguish. While exiting the funeral, he needed to be held up and helped to the waiting car outside.

Fig 1. Mark Lundy collapsing in grief.

Many watching saw Mark as ‘feigning grief’ and believed he was ‘overacting’. Well known NZ psychologist Nigel Latta said of Mark’s displays of bereavement, “His performance at the funeral was ridiculous. It struck people at the time. A funeral director at the time just was incredibly uncomfortable at how he behaved. This is someone who is around grieving people for a living. That’s a job. And she was uncomfortable with how Lundy was performing.”

Mark responded to these criticisms with the question, “How is a man supposed to grieve?”. He would tell his side of the story in a letter to a friend at a later date, “The funeral, for me, was something of a disaster. I had coordinated & organised everything, the extra seating, the extra sound system for outside, the order of proceedings, pallbearers, eulogies, songs, hymns, the whole works. At 12.45pm I arrived at the back of the church, [my sister] Caryl driving me, and I couldn’t get out of the car. I totally lost it. I have vague recollections of seeing people but that’s all. My next memory of consequence was… around the corner at the Rose & Crown. In the bar were at least 200 family and friends from all over the country. I was told later that I was grabbing everybody and hugging them, not shaking hands. I was babbling out something like, ‘I’m missing out on Christine and Amber hugs, so I need to get them from somewhere’. I am told that I was hugging strangers, who were there just as sticky beaks, and refusing all handshakes. I have no recollection of all this. When I saw the 6pm news I was both shocked & embarrassed at what I saw”.

More of Mark’s behaviour was questioned; was this ‘acceptable grieving’? Six weeks after the murders Mark went on a fishing trip to Turangi with a handful of friends. While drinking hard liquor at the Sportsman Lodge, Mark announced to the group “We have beer, and good company, and the only thing missing is whores.” Mark went on to brag about how highly rated his abilities in the bedroom were.

More eyebrows were raised when news broke that not only did Mark use the services of escorts in the months after the murders, but he had also stayed at the same Foreshore Motor Lodge on subsequent business trips and used the Quarry Inn escort service again. In essence — reliving the night of the murders. Mark was grilled about these actions at a later date:

QUESTIONER: “Do you have any guilt over hiring the escort on the night Christine and Amber died?”
MARK: “It sickens me to a certain degree”.
QUESTIONER: “And yet on a subsequent business trip you could go back to the same motel with another prostitute?”
MARK: “I did”.
QUESTIONER: “The same circumstances, the same sort of celebrations, alcohol, as you did on the night your wife and child died?”
MARK: “I just said I did”.
QUESTIONER: “You can do that, can you?”
MARK: “I did do it”.

These actions did not engender a lot of public sympathy. There was also the issue of Mark’s weight. He was overweight; obese even. This fact seemed to also engender disdain from the public. This actuality was highlighted in the satirical article written for Victoria University’s student magazine — Salient, titled ‘One thing we can all agree on: Mark Lundy sure is fuckin’ fat’. Which reads in part, “I mean, for the love of god, this man is fat. Christ on a cracker, this man… this cattle beast of a homosapien… this Hindenburg for the Jester’s Pie generation… this emphatic tour de force of flesh is unbelievably fucking fat.”

It would seem that the eyes of NZ were fixated on Mark Lundy in the months following the murders, judging his every action and word. That feeling was about to become even more pronounced when two months after the murders, forensics finally got around to testing the clothing found in Mark’s Ford Fairmont.

POLO SHIRT

59 days after the murders, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) tested the clothing discovered in Mark’s car on the 30th of August 2000. A blue polo shirt found in a bag in the boot of the car was found to have three small spots of blood on it. One blood spot was on the upper-front of the left-hand side of the shirt, another on the upper-left sleeve. Both were found to contain Christine Lundy’s DNA. The third stain on the lower-right side of the shirt was found to contain Amber’s DNA.

ESR scientists moistened the biggest stain with saline (a mixture of sodium chloride in water) and dabbed it onto a glass slide. The slide was taken by Detective Senior Sergeant  (D.S.S.) Ross Grantham to Dr. Cynric Temple-Camp; a pathologist in Palmerston North. The following account is taken from Cynric Temple-Camp’s book The Cause of Death, “It took me quarter of an hour to go over the slide at high microscopic magnification. ‘Well?’ said Ross. ‘What do you think it is?’… ‘This looks like brain to me’. He stared unblinkingly back at me. ‘Why?’… ‘It just looks like brain’. Ross looked at me sceptically. ‘What makes you say that?’ I thought carefully. This wouldn’t be easy to explain. ‘When a pathologist makes a diagnosis, mostly we recognise what we see instantly. It gets called the “Aunt Minnie” sign’… ‘Who the hell’s Aunt Minnie?’… ‘It goes like this. How do you know that an old lady in front of you is your Aunt Minnie? Well, it’s usually because you just know. You’ve seen her hundreds of times before and you know what she looks like and who she is. You don’t have to go through the whole scientific rigmarole you’d go through if you didn’t recognize her — you know, examine her facial profile, measure her height or count her moles or whatever. Some pathologists call this using the “lizard part” of your brain, the ancient dinosaur bit that runs on automatic without any intelligent thought.’… ‘It doesn’t sound like something we could use in court… Can you prove it?’… ‘Prove that it’s brain? No.’ I said. ‘Not with our resources here’”.

Detectives scoured the planet looking for someone who could prove the ‘bloodstain slide’ contained Christine’s brain tissue. They were directed to a pathologist in Texas named Rodney Miller. Rod used a technique dubbed immunostaining. This is the process of selectively identifying proteins in cells of tissue by exploiting the principle of the antibodies by binding specifically to antigens in biological tissues.  Rod’s tests in Texas concluded the ‘bloodstain slide’ did in fact contain either Christine Lundy’s brain matter or spinal cord. Furthermore, he was willing to testify to this in court.

Mark Lundy was called into the Palmerston North police station at 9am on the 24th of February 2001, almost six months after the murders. DSS Ross Grantham had some information to share, “The shirt that you wore, listen to this, the t-shirt you wore in Wellington, got it? The striped one out of your car has blood and brain tissue on it from Christine. That’s a fact, that’s it there”.

Mark Edward Lundy was arrested for the double murder of Christine and Amber Lundy on the 29th of August 2000.

TRIAL

The trial of Mark Lundy began in February 2002. The Crown case went as follows:

After taking the 5.30pm phone call from Amber asking if s he could have Mcdonald’s (which Mark picked up in Petone evidenced by pinging the nearby cell phone tower), Mark drove the 150km to 30 Karamea Crescent at a speed of at least 160kph.

Mark arrived in ‘Palmy’ around 7pm; he parked 500m from his house. Mark put on some coveralls and with an axe or axe-like weapon Mark Lundy snuck into his own house and butchered his wife as she lay naked on the master bed.

As the carnage unfolded, seven-year-old Amber got up out of bed to see what the commotion was all about. When Amber saw her father ‘hacking’ her mother to death; Mark was forced to kill her too, as she would be able to identify him. 

After this, Mark disposed of the murder weapon in a place that has still never been found. He then cleaned up and removed the overalls. During the removal of the coveralls, a few small drops of blood landed on the blue polo shirt Mark was wearing underneath; one of those spots contained his wife’s brain or spinal cord tissue. Then the staging began, Mark stole Christine’s jewellery box and jimmied open the conservatory window; leaving a bloody handprint behind. Finally, Mark tampered with the computer clock to look like it had been shut down at 10.52pm. Setting up his alibi.

Mark then put on a blonde wig disguise and ran the 500m to his parked car. He drove the 150km back to Petone, arriving back just before 8.30pm. Cellphone towers confirm that the 8.30pm phone call Mark made to his business associate originated from Petone. At 11.30pm, Mark called the Quarry Inn to order the prostitute and to realise his alibi.

The motive? Christine Lundy’s life insurance policy. The money would immediately help Mark get out of some of the debt he had accumulated over the past year. Although, it did come out in court that the recommended $500,000 increase that was supposed to be completed in June of 2000 was never finalized. 

Lundy’s defense team poked many holes in the Crown’s theory. Why was Christine (a well known night owl) in bed naked at 7pm? It was known that Shortland Street is one of her favourite shows and Christine and Amber would watch it together before Amber would go to bed. The Crown had a theory for that as well. During the 5.30pm phone call about McDonald’s on the night of the murders, the prosecution theorized that Mark told Christine he was coming home for sex; explaining her being naked in bed at 7pm.

Mark also wore an orthotic device in his shoe. This made it difficult for him to run. Therefore to see Mark Lundy running in general was unusual, nevermind in a blond wig. The credibility of the psychic witness was also brought into question. 

Defense also argued that a non computer savvy person like Mark did not have the know how to program the computer to shut down at a specific time.

If Mark was covered in blood, where did he clean up in the aftermath? Shouldn’t there be more evidence, considering the carnage found within the Lundy residence? Also, if Mark disposed of all of the other bloody clothing, why not also his bloody polo shirt? As Mark’s brother-in-law Dave Jones points out, “If you’ve got rid of everything else, why would you keep the shirt you were wearing? If you’ve got blood and gore all over you, and you’ve gone somewhere and inside this bloody short timeframe you’ve been able to clean yourself up so they haven’t found anything under your fingernails, in your hair, in your glasses, your watch, your rings, the zipper of your trousers – whatever, you’ve got rid of everything – if you’ve been so careful, why would you be dumb enough to keep the shirt? You’d dump the whole bloody lot, wouldn’t you?”

The three ‘small blood stains’ found on Mark Lundy’s polo were established in court to contain the DNA of the victims. An ESR scientist testified that the blood found on the lower right side of the shirt was 19 million times more likely to be Amber’s DNA than any other unrelated female. The other blood stains including the largest found on the left sleeve of the polo shirt were 450 billion times more likely to be Christine’s DNA than of another unrelated female. But those stains could have gotten there innocently, from perhaps a cut or a scratch. 

Many agree, a turning point came within the trial when Texas pathologist Rodney Miller took the stand. Rodney testified that the ‘microscopic tissue fragments’ found on the left sleeve was 100% either Christine Lundy’s brain or spinal cord.

Mark’s defense team scrambled to find ways to discredit this evidence. They didn’t dispute it was Christine’s brain or spinal cord. They disputed how it got there, perhaps it got there by cross contamination, or perhaps it was planted by the police. This is Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Grantham under cross examination: 

MIKE BEHRENS QC: “Did you put the brain tissue on the shirt?”
DET. SGT. ROSS GRANTHAM: “Don’t be ridiculous”.
MIKE BEHRENS QC: “Did you course anyone to do that?”
DET. SGT. ROSS GRANTHAM: “That is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in 23 years Mr. Behrens. I would never, could never and have never done such a thing”.

During his closing statement prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk reiterated the importance of the blood and tissue found on the polo shirt, “Any way you look at it, this shirt speaks volumes about the killing. It is the silent witness to the killing.”

After seven weeks, on the 20th of March 2002 Justice Anthony Ellis took 38 minutes to sum up the trial. Justice Ellis spoke about the 7pm time of death, saying that careful consideration needed to be given to whether Mark could complete what he was accused of in the timeframe, “For prosecution to succeed, a 7pm time of death is essential. If you have a reasonable doubt about this, it is fatal to the prosecution case.”

The jury of six men and six women returned six and half hours later. Mark Lundy blinked rapidly with his mouth agape as the jury read their verdict: guilty. 

44-year-old Mark Lundy was sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period of 17 years. He was driven to Manawatu Prison in Linton.

Outside of Palmerston North High Court, DSS Ross Grantham was applauded by the 60 strong crowd as he made a statement, “I’m just happy now it’s over, and that the families and the police can move on with our lives.”

SOURCES

Books
Steve Braunias, The Scene of the Crime, 2015
Dr. Cynric Temple-Camp, The Cause of Death, 2017
North & South, Murder (We Wrote), 2015
North & South, Murder (We Wrote) #2, 2018

Articles
Crime.co.nz, The Lundy Murders, http://www.crime.co.nz/c-files.aspx?ID=10286
Murderpedia, Mark Edward Lundy, https://murderpedia.org/male.L/l/lundy-mark.htm
Wikipedia, Lundy Murders, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lundy_murders
TVNZ, Mark Lundy a bad actor who tried to lie his way out of jail – Nigel Latta, https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/mark-lundy-a-bad-actor-who-tried-to-lie-his-way-out-of-jail-nigel-latta-6275963
Salient, One thing we can all agree on: Mark Lundy sure is fuckin’ fat, https://web.archive.org/web/20180217112418/https://www.salient.org.nz/2009/01/one-thing-we-can-all-agree-on-mark-lundy-sure-is-fuckin-fat/
Wikipedia, Immunostaining, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immunostaining
Wikipedia, Immunohistochemistry, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immunohistochemistry
TVNZ, Talk of psychic powers in Lundy case, http://tvnz.co.nz/content/48487/2591764/article.html
NZ Herald, Lundy neighbour describes ‘man dressed as woman’, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=940674

Videos
New Zealand Public Television, The Investigator – Mark Lundy Case, https://www.nzptv.org.nz/videos/this-is-the-title-04

Podcasts
The Evidence Locker, New Zealand – The Lundy Murders, https://evidencelockerpodcast.com/2018/09/10/13-new-zealand-the-lundy-murders/

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