Just what the hell was found on Mark Lundy's polo shirt - and how it got there - will quite possibly go a long way towards determining the fate of the man accused of murdering his wife and daughter in their Palmerston North home on the night of August 30, 2000.
There are two stains, known as C30003/3, on the sleeve, and C30003/4, on the chest. They are, say the prosecution, central nervous system tissue from Christine Lundy's brain. The first of their expert witnesses was called yesterday.
The shirt is at the front of the courtroom. It's made by Lancia, sort of grey-blue, size XXL, as vast as a tent - these days its former owner would be likely to disappear inside it and not find his way out. It's like a WeightWatchers exhibit. The shirt is the before, Lundy is the after. He's not half the man he used to be; in his seat at the back of the courtroom he looks almost gaunt.
According to the Crown, the stains pin him to the scene of the crime. They landed on his shirt while he was engaged in the process of killing.
On Monday, the defence was allowed to call its own expert witness. Gillian Leak talked a lot about the shirt. She had conducted experiments with a replica of it, and showed photographs of a volunteer fatso taking the XXL garment over his head, and dropping it on the floor. The point of the exercise was to demonstrate that the stain on the chest, our old friend C30003/4, could have smeared the sleeve of the shirt. "They could easily make contact," she said.
According to her thesis, then, the shirt was stained only once. Dear old C30003/3 was the product of a transfer. And so defence counsel David Hislop, QC, set about asking her about the possibility of that single incriminating stain arriving on the shirt as contaminated evidence from the crime scene.
He described the plot. Christine's brother finds the bodies, and brain tissue attaches itself to fibres on his jersey. He is taken away in the back of a police car, and sits next to a policeman. The tissue attaches itself to the officer, who subsequently transfers it to another officer, who examines Lundy's short-sleeved tent.
Perhaps Hislop was drawing a substantially long bow, perhaps not, but he stuck to the task, and drew it and drew it and drew it, and Leak said she could not exclude the possibility. "The start of the series has the potential to pass it along, because you have a link going all the way back to the crime scene," she said.
Leak worked on the Yorkshire Ripper investigation in England; yesterday, the prosecution called its forensic expert, Laetitia Sijen, from Holland, who can also list encounters with human depravity on her CV -- war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. She talked a lot about Lundy's shirt, too. Her punchline was a long time in coming. First, there was an amiable discussion about shopping for human remains.
Crown prosecutor Philip Morgan, QC: "Where do you get your brain material from?"
Sijen: "The Amsterdam Medical Centre, where people donate their bodies to science."
She said she also conducted tests on a cow, a sheep, a chicken, a cat, a dog, a rabbit, a pig and a guinea pig. "You can order their brains online," she pointed out.
Her laboratory conducted tests on the animal brains and the human brains, and also on samples taken from C30003/3 and C30003/4. Signals would announce the presence of human brain RNA. The sheep, cat, dog and guinea pig showed nothing. Interestingly, the signals were picked up in samples taken from the cow, the rabbit and the pig. Another test was taken. The temperature was raised by four degrees, and the signals disappeared. Four degrees' separation.
Finally, after much talk of microlitres and false-positives and such, she said that the stain on the sleeve of Lundy's polo shirt had human brain on it.
"From the results," said Sijen, "we infer that human central nervous system tissue was present."
It showed in seven out of 12 tests, or 58 per cent.
There were no signals from the stain on the chest. "It tells us we do not have brain observed ... We can't say whether it's present or not. It could be beneath detection."
Justice Simon France stepped in, and said he wanted to put something to Sijen that might make things easier for the jury to understand.
"So what you're saying," he said, "is that you didn't observe brain on the pocket of the shirt, but on the sleeve, your tests show more probably than not that it's human?"
Sijen has a pleasant speaking voice. Morgan often asked her to slow down, because her accent sometimes made it difficult to understand. Where possible, she keeps her answers to a minimum. She told the judge, "Yes."
Significance of brain matter dissected
Forensic science regarding the matter found on Mark Lundy's polo shirt was under the spotlight at his double-murder trial yesterday.
International experts gave evidence in the High Court at Wellington about tests performed on the shirt and whether it had been contaminated with evidence from the crime scene.
Lundy has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife, Christine, 38, and daughter Amber, 7, in the family's Palmerston North home on August 30, 2000.
Yesterday, the jury was walked through complicated processes undertaken by staff at the Netherlands Forensic Institute who tested the material.
Institute forensic scientist Laetitia Sijen said she received slides of the matter in March last year, but there was "very little cell material present". But after developing four brain markers that the material needed to match, the tests showed the mark on Lundy's sleeve was more probably than not central nervous system (CNS) tissue.
"From the results, we infer that human CNS tissue was present."
The tests were performed in front of an expert from Lundy's defence team.
No CNS tissue was observed on the mark on Lundy's pocket, but that did not mean it was not present, Dr Sijen said.
British forensic expert Gillian Leak yesterday stood by her evidence for the defence that the tissue could have made it on to the shirt after travelling from the crime scene.
The Crown has not yet finished calling prosecution witnesses, but Lundy's defence team was allowed to call its first witness early to accommodate Mrs Leak's availability.
Mrs Leak said the officer who handled the polo shirt had come into contact with other police officers who had been at the crime scene, and with an officer who had been near Mrs Lundy's brother who found the bodies.
Prosecution lawyer Philip Morgan, QC, said Lundy's top had been inside out and kept in a suitcase until September 3, when it was opened by a detective, Sean Hansen, who put it in an evidence bag.
"Unless Detective Hansen had brain tissue on him ... then this whole contamination argument is meaningless, isn't it?" he said.
Mrs Leak said the top could have been contaminated by material on a bench where Mr Hansen had taken it to in order to transfer it to an evidence bag.
She also clarified how paint fragments the same colour as Lundy's tools could have ended up in his wife's hair.
Mrs Lundy could have transferred minuscule fragments, picked up in a newly decorated room, by running her hands through her hair.
Mrs Leak also put forward a theory on how a smear of blood came to be on the conservatory window, saying it could have inadvertently come from an officer changing in or out of protective gear near the window.
• Tests done by a Dutch lab found central nervous system tissue from a human in marks found on Mark Lundy's shirt.
• A British expert maintains Lundy's shirt could have been contaminated from evidence that travelled from the crime scene.
• Paint fragments found in Christine Lundy's hair would have been minuscule and could have come from surfaces from a redecorated room in the house.
• A blood smear on a conservatory window could have come from officers changing into protective clothing near the scene.
Additional reporting by Rebecca Quilliam