Lawyers square off over key claims on the first day of an expected nine-week trial over the double killing.

Out went a guy who looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown unless someone gave him his medication, quick. Out went a nice old duck who was plainly as deaf as A POST. Out, too, went a sleepy individual who came to court wearing his pyjamas.

Other potential jurors were challenged in courtroom number one - Ewen Macdonald wuz here, 2012 - in the High Court at Wellington yesterday morning, until seven men and five women were selected to reassess the strange case of Mark Edward Lundy.

In 2002, he stood trial, accused of murdering his wife and daughter. He was found guilty. The conviction was thrown out in 2013. For the next eight or nine weeks, he stands retrial, reaccused.

"There is a rhythm to a trial," Justice Simon France told the jury. But he was out of step, and played a shocker when he tripped over his tongue. He meant to say, "Mr Lundy". Instead, he said, "Mr Guilty".

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Lundy wore a dark suit and a paint-brush goatee, which made him look either like an intellectual, or 1970s crooner Roger Whittaker. "You did murder," announced the court clerk, "Christine Marie Lundy". Her widower stood in the dock, with his hands behind his back; he wore his wedding ring. "You did murder," the clerk also said, "Amber Grace Lundy". Their daughter was 7 years old.

They lived in Palmerston North. The couple owned a company that sold nothing except the kitchen sink - it's possible they heard that lame joke many times. On August 29, 2000, Lundy drove to Wellington, and booked Unit 10 at the Foreshore Motel in Petone. He was staying overnight on business. He phoned for a prostitute. She came to his room. The next morning, Christine and Amber were found murdered in their home.

The judge: Justice Simon France. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The judge: Justice Simon France. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The prosecution and defence agreed on little else when they gave their respective opening addresses. For the Crown, Philip Morgan, QC, wore a peacock-blue tie and spoke clearly, although perhaps verbosely. He said Lundy drove to Palmerston North sometime after midnight and killed his wife and daughter with a "heavy, sharp object". He disposed of his clothes, the weapon, and Christine's jewellery box - he took it to make police think the crime was committed by a burglar.

The evidence against Lundy, Morgan said, included stains found on Lundy's polo shirt. "The accused," he said, "had Christine's brain on his shirt."

The prosecution: Philip Morgan. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The prosecution: Philip Morgan. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There was also the matter of a bracelet found in Lundy's car. And serious debt, and a life insurance pay-out. And paint flakes found in the victims' hair, which Morgan claimed matched the paint on Lundy's tools. "And," he said, "you will hear from a fellow inmate, and he will tell you Lundy said to him that he wouldn't be in jail if his daughter hadn't come in and seen what he was doing to his wife."

All that - a bloody shirt, a jailhouse snitch - and yet an old boy in the back row of the public gallery closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and went to sleep.

Ross Burns, for the defence, spoke softly and soothingly, but now and then overdid it and ended up muttering. There was method in his mutter. Patiently, not really mockingly, he picked apart the Crown case, starting with the Crown case in 2002. Then, police claimed time of death was 7pm, and called a key witness and introduced computer evidence to back it up; but now, it looked more likely the murders happened about 3am. Neither the witness nor the computer evidence will be called.

The defence: Ross Burns. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The defence: Ross Burns. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He said the stains on the polo shirt might not be human. He said the Lundys' finances were solvent, and under no pressure. He said they were happy, loving, normal.

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As for the jailhouse snitch, said Burns, he was just a liar. Actually, not just dishonest; Burns' character reference told of an offender with a history of violence, deceit, substance abuse and personality disorders.

And then he dealt a card as new and shocking as the jailhouse confession. Evidence gathered in 2014 showed that DNA of two men was found beneath Christine and Amber's fingernails.

"It was not possible," Burns concluded, "that Mark Lundy committed these crimes."

Justice France dismissed the jury at 1.05pm. "A short day," he said. The prosecution will call its first witness this morning. It will likely be the man who discovered the bodies.

The defence may or may not call Mark Edward Lundy to give evidence. But he has already said the only two words which matter most to him: "Not guilty."