Cat worker's murder: Screams heard at flat, court told

Witnesses have told of hearing a woman's scream below them in a block of flats on the night it is alleged cat protection worker Kerry Leigh Downey was murdered.

A depositions hearing in Christchurch District Court was told today that Ms Downey had probably been strangled before her body was dumped down a bank in the suburb of Westmorland on the Port Hills.

Prosecutor Anna MacGougan detailed the evidence the crown says ties 41-year-old Ashley Donald Peach to the woman's death, including evidence from two men in a flat above Peach's address in Upper Riccarton, Christchurch, of hearing a woman scream.

She also told the court of blood and vomit on three towels at his flat and that three items of Ms Downey's clothing were found at the address as well as her handbag, wallet, and documents, including her Fly Buys card and her Cats Protection League notebook.

There were scratches on Peach's arm and two Cats Protection League cages were found at the flat, the court was told. Ms Downey had gone there to pick up an unwanted cat that Peach telephoned about.

Miss MacGougan said red hair was discovered on peach's carpet and on adhesive tape found at the flat and in the rubbish skip at the block of flats.

She said the crown would call evidence from 29 witnesses during the depositions hearing, but only eight would give evidence in court. The rest would be handed up in written form.

The hearing before John O'Hara and Bruce Dawson, Justices of the Peace, is expected to take two or three days.

Evidence will not be called at this preliminary hearing from the pathologist who examined Ms Downey's body, but Miss MacGougan said the primary cause of death was "a homicidal assault including neck compression most probably by manual strangulation".

She said Peach had phoned the Cats Protection League to get a cat picked up, and a witness saw a woman fitting Ms Downey's description arriving at the flat about 7pm on August 18. She was carrying a cat cage.

Ms Downey did not arrive at work the next day, and her colleagues began making inquiries to find her. That included phoning Peach.

Police searched his flat that evening and found two cages and three articles of Ms Downey's clothing.

At 8am, on August 20, Ms Downey's body was discovered down a bank on Worsley Road, Westmorland.

Miss MacGougan said the crown believed Ms Downey had been attacked and killed in Peach's flat and her own car had been used to carry her body to where it was dumped.

Three used condoms were found at the flat.

- NZPA

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