On August 29, 2000, in Palmerston North, New Zealand, a woman and her daughter met with a foul fate. Christine Lundy, 38, was a devoted mother to 7-year-old Amber Grace Lundy, and she involved herself in Girl Guides and other community activities. She was a nice woman and a good mom. Amber was a bright girl with strong leadership skills and an outgoing personality. She was a good student and a delight to teach. Neither Christine nor Amber ever did anything to deserve the brutal attacks that ended their lives.
Christine and Amber had walked home after school on August 29th. Mark Lundy, Christine’s husband and Amber’s daddy, had travelled out of town on business that very morning. At around 5:30pm Christine phoned Mark to tell him that Amber’s Girl Guides meeting had been cancelled and that they were going to have McDonald’s for supper.
Just before 6:00pm, Christine purchased the McDonald’s meals as determined by the receipt.
These were all ordinary details about the ordinary lives of Christine and Amber Lundy. There was no foreshadowing of the horror that was to be visited upon them very shortly.
Mark Lundy, 43, was in a motel in Petone which is near Wellington. He was a salesman on a business trip. His business apparently involved a $140 transaction with a prostitute.
By 11:30 pm when the prostitute arrived to spend quality time with good husband and father Mark Lundy, Christine and Amber were possibly already dead.
The next morning, Mark Lundy, all concerned that nobody answered the phone at home, called up his brother-in-law James Glenn Weggery and asked him to check on his family. Glenn, like the good fellow he is, went to the house on Karamea Crescent and knocked on the door. He got no answer, which was worrying, so he broke in. He discovered his niece’s bloodied body in the hallway. James Glenn Weggery immediately called emergency services and then he found his sister naked in her bed, covered in blood.
Both Christine and Amber had been struck multiple times in the face and head with something akin to a tomahawk. Blood was everywhere — up the walls and all over the floor and bed.
How absolutely horrific for James Glenn Weggery to have to discover the brutally murdered corpses of his sister and niece!
By the time Mark Lundy returned to Palmerston North, police had cordoned off his house. Mark Lundy was intercepted three blocks from the murder scene by the police. He gave the police permission to examine his car for evidence there and then. The police search turned up a gym bag that had a blue polo shirt inside it. The officers conducting the search placed the shirt into an evidence bag and sealed it up. These officers had not been inside the home or in contact with the bodies.
On September 7, 2000, a funeral was held for Christine and Amber. It was televised and New Zealanders watched as poor bereaved Mark Lundy collapsed in grief as he left the church. They all felt sorry for him.
Less than six months later Mark Lundy was arrested for the murder of his wife and daughter.
The investigators theorized that Mark Lundy was in financial trouble and needed his wife’s life insurance money. Christine was worth more to him dead than alive.
Poor little Amber was just a witness to her beloved mommy’s brutal murder and as she ran for the door to escape, her daddy caught up with her and axed her to death too.
How does a father bring himself to whack an axe repeatedly into the skull and face of the little girl who loved him? Was she screaming for him to stop? Did she ask him why?
I hope Christine was asleep and didn’t know what hit her when she died, but we know Amber wasn’t asleep. We know she was running for her life. Only the most vicious, heartless hellbeast can slaughter a helpless child like that. And that hellbeast is Mark Lundy.
At Mark Lundy’s 2002 trial the Crown showed that the blue and orange flecks of paint collected from Christine’s skull were consistent with the paint Lundy marked his carpentry tools with. He kept those tools locked in the garage.
The biggest proof of his guilt though was the fact that the blue polo shirt found in his car was smeared with tissue from Christine Lundy’s brain and spinal cord.
Mark Lundy’s lawyer would argue that his client could not have committed the murders because it was a three-hour trip from Petone to Palmerston North and back again. Mark Lundy finished talking to his wife at 5:43pm and he next made a phone call at 8:28pm. Both calls were pinged in Petone. How could Mark Lundy drive like a maniac, murder both Christine and Amber, clean himself up and drive back to Petone in that short amount of time?
The jury deliberated for a few hours and found Mark Lundy guilty. He was sentenced to a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
Now there are a lot of people who still, after over a decade, believe strongly in Mark Lundy’s innocence based mostly on the apparent impossibility that the convicted killer could have made that round trip, including the murder and clean-up, between 5:43 and 8:28pm. He would have had to drive 120 km/hr to do it.
This, of course, presumes that the pathologist James Pang was correct in determining the time of death. He figured that Christine and Amber had died around 7:00pm, based upon the digestive state of the victims’ stomach contents. If they ate their McDonald’s meals at 6:00pm, then they probably died an hour later, according to James Pang.
Subsequent research has shown that estimating death based on stomach contents is extremely unreliable. Forensic experts have since called this method little better than “quackery”. In other words, we won’t be seeing it on CSI.
Christine Lundy had been murdered while she was naked in bed. How many adults go to bed at 7:00pm?
It is far more likely that Mark Lundy made the trip in a more leisurely fashion after his business appointment with the prostitute.
Regardless of when he killed them, Mark Lundy cannot explain away the most incriminating evidence — his wife’s brain stuff on his shirt! People don’t go around leaking that stuff all over, you know. It’s not like it could innocently dribble onto his shirt! It was brain tissue!
A decade after the murders Mark Lundy decided to appeal his sentence. A “witness” had come forward to say he saw a man — Mark Lundy apparently — reading a book at dusk on the foreshore in Petone. This witness said he recognized him later from film footage of Mr. Lundy.
The result of the appeal was an additional 3 years tacked onto Mark Lundy’s sentence. He now has a minimum non-parole period of 20 years.
And still the supporters of Mark Lundy continue to campaign for his release, loudly proclaiming his innocence. They have formed a committee named FACTUAL (For Amber & Christine – Truth Uncovered About Lundys).
All I can say to those people is BRAIN TISSUE!
And all I can say to Mark Lundy, a hellbeast who willingly axed his wife and daughter to death for money, may you rot in hell!
Well, it appears that this case is not settled at all. Mark Lundy’s murder convictions were quashed and he was granted leave for a retrial by the Privy Council in London. The decision to quash the convictions was based largely upon the following:
– the validity of science used to identify matter on Lundy’s shirt as brain tissue – if it wasn’t brain tissue then there really is no case.
– the determination of the time of death using the stomach contents.
The retrial is scheduled for next year because there have to be hearings about the scientific evidence first. I shall endeavour to keep readers posted – reminders are welcome.