Lundy appeal 'devastating'

Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013

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Family and friends of murder victims Christine and Amber Lundy fear they may never be able to put their memories to rest after the man convicted of their killings was granted an appeal by the Privy Council.

News that Mark Lundy, jailed in 2002 for the murder of his wife and daughter in their Palmerston North home two years before, will have his case heard by the London-based court was a blow, said Christine Lockett, a close friend of Christine Lundy.

Mrs Lockett said she let out a deep sigh upon hearing the news.

"I just thought, 'Oh no, this is not what anyone wants'."

The Privy Council announced yesterday morning its decision to hear Lundy's case and a three-day hearing will start on June 17.

Mrs Lockett said she and others thought there was "no way" it would be approved when his application was made public last year.

"We thought that they would throw the case out, that it wouldn't be accepted whatsoever, so it was a shock to hear they had taken it on board."

The development meant the spotlight would be back on Lundy, she said. ‘It's just not going to go away now. It's just going to be really hard to cope with for those who loved Christine and Amber."

Craig Lundy, Mark's brother, and his family would be "devastated" by the news, she said. Craig Lundy believes his brother is guilty.

"It's just another blow for them, they have been through so much as a family. It's just another kick in the teeth."

The possibility of his conviction being overturned was "almost unbearable".

"That would be the biggest nightmare for us all, but we've got to be realistic about the possibility."

She said the memories of Christine and Amber's slaying would never be put to rest if Lundy was allowed to walk free.

"Two very precious people were lost and we can never bring them back. It's hard to think someone may walk free for their murder."

Mark Lundy's United Kingdom-based lawyer, David Hislop, said he was working pro-bono, but it was going to be "difficult" to raise money to bring the expert witnesses to London for the hearing.

The case would focus on the Crown's forensic evidence, especially the scientific evidence used to identify the matter they alleged to be brain tissue found on Lundy's shirt, he said.

Mr Hislop said the Crown had "shopped for an expert" over the findings.

"If the Privy Council come to the view that this is unsatisfactory scientific evidence, there is no doubt that that evidence played a dominant part in the conviction of Mark Lundy.

"If they say it's flawed or are concerned sufficiently to say ‘this is unsafe', then the conviction will go."

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Also in question was the timing of their deaths, the scientific evidence given on their stomach contents, and the time Christine Lundy's computer was shut down.

Christine Lundy's brother Glenn Weggery, who found the bodies of his sister and niece, had the task of breaking news of the council's decision to the rest of the family yesterday morning. He would like to travel to London for the hearing, but would have to take out a loan to do it, he said.

A spokesman for the Privy Council said it would be looking at arranging to live-stream the hearing from London on the internet due to the high profile of the case.

Long-time Lundy supporter Geoff Levick said the hearing would be another step to Lundy's eventual freedom.

"They've obviously decided that the points we've made (mainly around jurisdiction) are obviously very valid.

"If he goes to the retrial then I'm confident he will walk free. . . I've been studying this case for 10 years."

But he saw winning a Privy Council hearing as just the start of another lengthy process for those campaigning to free Lundy.

"It's an absolutely fascinating case. As an analogy, let's say you're on a horse hurdle race and you've jumped two hurdles. The first is launching the petition and the second is being invited to make a submission and going to the hearing. There are a lot more hurdles to jump."

Mr Weggery expressed disappointment that the media knew of the news before family but police spokesman Grant Ogilvie said police also found out about the decision through the same channels yesterday morning.

It was "unfortunate", because it did not give them an opportunity to inform those families first, he said.

DAUNTING, DRAINING . . . AND A PRIVILEGE

Painstaking preparation is the key to winning an appeal at the Privy Council - take it from someone who knows.

Michael Reed, QC, took David Bain's case for a retrial to what is formally known as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and satisfied it that Mr Bain's conviction for murdering five members of his family was a miscarriage of justice.

"It's an amazing feeling to arrive in the morning, scared and not knowing what's going to happen, to walking out at the end of the day with a win," he said.

"It's a daunting experience but very worthwhile because you're dealing with the top people in the Commonwealth. They really are tremendous."

Five judges, who are all law lords, hear appeals from within the Commonwealth. To qualify for a Privy Council hearing, cases from New Zealand must have been heard in the Court of Appeal before 2004, when the Supreme Court was established.

Mr Reed cannot recall exactly how much time and effort he and the rest of Mr Bain's legal team poured into their petition and appeal hearing in London, but he was "shattered and exhausted at the end of the five days".

"By the time we got to the hearing we were so prepared. Of course, we had the huge benefit of having Joe Karam there, who knows more than the whole New Zealand police force."

Lundy's team would have probably done a large amount of the work required already to get to the stage they were at now, Mr Reed said.

"But the actual hearing is a whole new ball game where they [the judges] really go into every single detail of the case.

"They read everything. They are very, very thorough. When you get there, you find they know almost more about the case than you do, so you've got to be on your game.

"They're so polite, but they can be devastating in the way they put down an argument if you're not careful."

Police representatives would be meeting with Crown Law to discuss the Privy Council decision within the next few days, he said.

Officer in charge of the Lundy case, Detective Inspector Ross Grantham, and Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk would not comment.

- Fairfax Media

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