Day seven in the murder trial of Mark Lundy - the Palmerston North sink salesman accused of killing his wife and daughter in appalling circumstances with an axe or something similar - dawned bright and hot in the capital yesterday, and the jury in the High Court at Wellington could not exactly be said to look crestfallen when Justice Simon France announced they could take the afternoon off.
They had just endured a quarter of an hour of a policeman reading out phone records. Perhaps his real talent is reading out the phone directory. We may never know, hopefully.
Numbers were the theme of the day. Witnesses were called by the prosecution to discuss interest rates, shares, penalties, debts, and the cost of fenceposts. Lundy was in sinks. His failed scheme to buy and develop a Hawkes Bay vineyard rather suggests he should have stayed in sinks.
The prosecution attempted to sketch a portrait of Lundy as someone who had got way in over his head. He was facing insolvency and the threat of bankruptcy. To a murderer, life insurance is an income stream.
And so Tuesday in court was the day of the loose, bad suit, as solicitors and accountants took the witness stand. Phillip Sunderland, who acted as Lundy's solicitor, said he remembered meeting his former client to first discuss his plans to buy land in Hawkes Bay to grow grapes.
Philip Morgan, QC, for the Crown: "Did Mr Lundy have any money to make the purchase?"
He said Lundy's plan was to raise the money through shares offered to investors. Lundy, he said, impressed him with his close knowledge of public subscriptions. That meeting went well, but Sunderland expressed some dismay when Lundy later told him he'd made an unconditional offer to buy land valued at $2 million.
Morgan: "Did you explain the consequences?"
Sunderland: "Yes ... What I said to him would have been relatively robust, given that he was an adult in full control of his faculties."
Allan Clarke, a relaxed, likeable visitor from the Hawkes Bay, gave evidence as a viticulture consultant who dealt with Lundy during the vineyard enterprise. He was very informative. He said that it cost about $32,000 per hectare to create a vineyard from scratch; that included the plants and the fenceposts, but not roading and sheds. A manager's annual salary would be around $60,000, and a couple of wage workers would also be needed for labour. All up, he estimated running costs of $2.1 million.
Yes, but what about the returns? When would the grapes groweth once they got stucketh in the ground? Clarke said, "You could be in full production in four years, even maybe half a crop in year three, if it was well-managed."
But you had to wait 12 months before you could even sticketh them in the ground. Grafting the vines took time. "We always recommend grafted vines ... It's a very skilled operation, very specialised."
He travelled to Palmerston North to have a look at the nursery providing the plants for Lundy's vineyard. He laughed, and said, "Worst nursery I've ever seen." The grapes of scorn.
In any case, Lundy wasn't able to raise the money to buy the land.
He kept missing the settlement dates, and owed about $140,000 in penalty interest.
David Gaynor, Lundy's business adviser, described his level of encouragement when he heard about the vineyard scheme. "I told them it was high-risk, and if it didn't work out, it would have serious consequences."
He sang from the same chart again when he spoke with Christine Lundy, about six weeks before she was murdered. "I encouraged her to relay my very serious concerns to Mark ... She said she was very worried about the project, and would talk to Mark."
But to defence counsel Ross Burns, he said that Lundy's sink business was growing, and that he wasn't particularly worried about its debt levels.
Burns similarly elicited at least some glad tidings about Lundy's business affairs from police forensic accountant Reginald Murphy.
Murphy had a dry cough, and presented his evidence in a kind of croak. To Morgan, he said Lundy was more or less insolvent at the time of the murders. Lundy's financial commitments were $439,000; the house where Christine and their daughter Amber were slain was valued at $115,000, but had loans against it.
Burns: "What you haven't done is include the other side of the ledger."
Murphy agreed that Lundy's business was "viable, and looking to the future".
There was $19,000 equity in the house, and although Lundy had missed a mortgage payment in June 2000, there were no other difficulties.
Then Burns went at Murphy over his forensic accounting of Lundy's wine venture. Small, tidily groomed, with hair nearly as luxurious and silver as that of Justice France, Burns raised his voice, and argued with the witness. Justice France intervened. "Settle down!" he instructed Burns.
But Burns was not for settling. He went another round with Murphy and began to cut across the croaker until Justice France said, "Stop!" Burns did not stop.
France said, "The judge is speaking. And he said stop!"
Burns stopped. When order was restored, he said he had no further questions, and gave a sheepish laugh.