Crucial but exceedingly boring forensic evidence takes centre stage in week four.

Teina Pora, awaiting either a trial or compensation; David Bain, awaiting compensation; Mark Lundy, the third member of the exclusive club of New Zealanders whose murder convictions have been thrown out by the Privy Council in London, awaiting the end of his second trial. It felt like a very long wait yesterday for everyone at the Wellington High Court.

Week four of the trial, which is set down for nine weeks, could be described as slow. The evidence was entirely concerned these past few days with a substance which defence witness Gillian Leak compared to a blancmange: brain tissue. Something soft, something oozing.

And something apparently very, very difficult to identify. The prosecution say that Mark Lundy did kill his wife Christine Lundy on the night of August 30, 2000, and the proof is that brain or spinal cord tissue from her central nervous system spattered on to his polo shirt. Prosecution witness Laetitia Sijen told the court on Tuesday that tests on the stain conducted in her laboratory inferred the presence of human brain RNA. Yesterday, her findings were challenged by Lundy's lawyer, David Hislop QC. All day.

It is crucial and it is exceedingly boring. "Replicate analysis ... Multiple markers ... picogram is a millionth of a millionth of a gram", etc.


One or two lawyers filled out not exactly cryptic crosswords ("Artist who married John Lennon, 4, 3") and inspected their bank accounts - tut, such spending habits. One or two jurors appeared to enter a zone which wasn't exactly sleep, more a kind of oblivion. One correspondent just got up and legged it.

I took the train to Petone. Courtroom number one, with its dark panelling and quaint insistence that men wear ties in front of Justice Simon France, is a necessarily controlled environment where justice must be seen to be done; Petone is so very pleasant, such a pretty seaside town. Also, its shoreline and its sandy streets form an important scene in the strange case of Mark Lundy.

The sink salesman from Palmerston North stayed the night at Petone's Foreshore motel on August 30. The Crown claim he sneaked out of his room at about 1am, and drove home. He had a plan. The killing of his wife was, in essence, an execution. The killing of his daughter, who saw her mother being attacked, was a horrible instance of collateral damage. Lundy then drove back to the motel. He checked out in the morning, and inside his suitcase was an XXL polo shirt.

Blue pins attach it to a board in the courtroom. It's been around, this 65 per cent polyester, 35 per cent cotton garment; made in China, worn in New Zealand, analysed in Texas and Holland and possibly elsewhere, too. There were three international experts in court yesterday, and all have at one time or another inspected the shirt's two stains with their shrewd eyes. Sijen is from Holland, Leak from England, and a third forensic witness was able to watch proceedings via video link-up from her office in Germany.

All three would have felt at home in Petone. The long stretch of Jackson Street includes boiled sweets and English tea at UK Goodies, gouda and ginger biscuits at The Dutch Shop, and I recommend a shortbread biscuit filled with raspberry jam at The German Bakery. It's like a Shrewsbury biscuit, which in German is loosely translated as a schickenburgen.

Lundy preferred good, delicious heart-attack food. The court was told last week that he liked a tuck shop just down the road from his motel on the Esplanade. It's now called the Shoreline, and a long queue yesterday at lunchtime chose waffle dogs and scotch eggs and yoyos. I went for the healthy option, a bun topped with tinned spaghetti and melted cheese.

The drab, grey beach, the beautiful surrounding hills, the inelegant lump of Somes Island in Wellington harbour. The fresh air. All of courtroom one should have been taken to Petone, peered into Lundy's motel room, followed in his footsteps, queued at the Shoreline, inspected the foreshore where he said he parked up and read a book, imagined the Crown's version of his drive under cloak of darkness along the Esplanade and then turning west, inland, past Levin, Otaki, Shannon, to the killing fields that awaited him at his home at 30 Karamea Crescent, Palmerston North.

But they stayed where they were, pinned to courtroom one, and I returned in the afternoon. I didn't stay long. It was a kind of courtesy visit.


Hislop said to Sijen that her tests were unreliable, prone to error, "greatly flawed", and a work in progress that had never actually been performed before. "Do you," he said, "accept there is a striking variability in your testing?"

She answered, "I accept variability. But not striking."

"Do you," he said, "accept that RNA analysis is considerably more difficult than DNA analysis?"

She answered, "I agree it's different. More difficult? It's somewhat more difficult."

And so on, painstaking, crucial, exasperating. As for a picogram, by my reckoning it's a trillionth of a gram. Why bother saying a millionth of a millionth? They ought really have cut to the chase.