The day of the snitch.
There he was, at last, in person, his presence advertised six long weeks ago on the very first day of the murder trial of Mark Lundy at the Wellington High Court when the prosecution stated in its opening address that it would call on the services of one of the most fabled and despised characters in criminal history - a jailhouse snitch. Witness X, as he must be known, took the stand yesterday afternoon. He was asked to swear on oath. "Aw yeah," said X.
This is how the Crown prepares to come to the end of its massive effort to prosecute Lundy for a second time: not yet with a bang, in the meantime with a snitcher. The court was cleared, the door locked, the TV cameras switched off. Outside, a fresh autumn day in the capital; inside, a murky little sub-plot to the trials of Lundy, accused of murdering his wife and daughter in their home in Palmerston North on the night of August 30, 2000.
Lundy showed no sign of recognition as X was led into the court. Perhaps he didn't remember him. It was a long time since they met, and the two men hadn't actually spent a lot of quality time together. But X remembered Lundy.
In fact he remembered him in some detail. He said Lundy wore shorts, a jersey, and white trainers. They were in a prison yard. They sat opposite each other on benches. X sat astride the bench.
There were two other inmates and the four of them were going to play cards, but the other two just sort of jumped up and wandered off. It was getting on to lunch. X and Lundy talked about what was on the menu. Probably sandwiches, X remembered. Peanut butter sandwiches.
It was March 2002. They had never met before and they never talked again other than to say hi, how's it going, during the two weeks they were in the same segregation unit of the prison. "He looked familiar," said X, "but I didn't know who he was."
They started talking. Crown prosecutor Philip Morgan, QC, a tall, rather gloomy fellow with a hollowed-out face, said to X, "What did the two of you chat about?"
X said, "He asked me what I was in for. I told him it was a bank robbery and I wouldn't be in there if it wasn't for my mum telling the police. He said he wouldn't be in there if his daughter hadn't come in and seen what he was doing to his wife."
And there it was. Startlingly, frankly, absolutely, the confession. Lundy has denied it to police, to family, to friends, to everyone, but blurted it out to a small-time crook he had only just met in a prison yard.
X didn't find it particularly interesting. He said, "I just thought he was in there for beating his wife up or something like that." He added that Lundy mentioned he was waiting for his appeal to go through.
The years passed. Curiously, they didn't keep in touch. X went back to prison, got released, went back inside again, over and over. The stretches were usually about three months. He once told a parole officer, "Some people go to Paris every year. I go to prison."
He was quite a funny guy; he had an appealing kind of smile, and his comic timing was excellent. The court was played a farcical telephone recording of his call to the police in 2013 when he'd seen his old mate Mark on TV " the Privy Council had overturned Lundy's conviction, and ordered his release from jail.
X: "I hadn't really thought about what he'd said to me for a long time but when I saw him on TV I had a flashback."
X chose to call the motorway traffic number *555 ("It just popped into my head") and asked to be put through to police because he had vital information about Mark Lundy. The operator said she couldn't do that.
X: "If you can't put me through, sweet as, I won't bother about it."
X, under his breath: "F***ing hell."
Later, X sat down and wrote a letter to a judge. It began: "Sir. I have the smoking gun to end all smoking guns. I have information about a cold-blooded murderer ..." The rest of the letter was a whining demand to be released on bail.
His lawyer advised him not to send the letter if he wanted to be a credible witness.
For the defence, Ross Burns asked, "Have you ever taken any advice on being a credible witness?"
"Nah," said X.
"Perhaps you should have," said Burns.
After discussing X's long criminal history, which included about 30 dishonesty offences, and reading from reports which described his character as "manipulative ... with multiple personality disorders", Burns turned the subject to that amazing conversation between X and Lundy back in 2002.
Burns had found documents which placed X and Lundy in the yard together on four occasions. The dates were all during the weekend.
And then Burns said, "Do you know why you weren't together between Monday and Friday? It's because Mr Lundy was in court. He was on trial. He hadn't even been convicted. He couldn't possibly have been waiting for his appeal, as you have told us."
X said, "Nah! Cos he said he was waiting for an appeal!"
Snitch, squirming; snitch, twitching.
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