His name had become like a rumour. He was talked about, a lot, but never seen. Witness after witness in the murder trial of Mark Lundy mentioned police inspector Ross Grantham, sometimes in passing, sometimes under questioning, at the Wellington High Court these past four weeks. Perhaps he was dead. They were talking about something that happened a long time ago. Perhaps he was only a ghost, his name haunting the courtroom. But he was called to the witness stand on Thursday afternoon, and there he was, a tall man with silver hair and a superb posture in his blue police uniform with three pips on each shoulder and a merit award pinned to his chest.
It's likely the award was presented to him in recognition of his massive role as officer in charge of the investigation into the murders of Christine and Amber Lundy.
Grantham, who busted Mark Lundy for those awful murders in Palmerston North on the night of August 30, 2000; Grantham, who led the inquiry that came up with the almost comical theory that Lundy had driven at fantastic speeds to achieve a three-hour return trip between Petone and Palmerston North that gave him time to slaughter his wife and child with an axe at about 7pm, dispose of the weapon, and get back to his motel room where he calmly ordered a hooker. Lundy went to trial in 2002. He was found guilty.
But the conviction was overturned in 2013 by the Privy Council, and the Wellington High Court was told that one of the reasons was that the time of death was impossible.
So here was Grantham on the stand, witness number 105, in the retrial of Mark Lundy. The Crown now says the killings took place some time around 3am. Same offender, same motive (Christine's life insurance), wildly different time. How could Grantham and his team have got it so wrong? What was he thinking? What did it say about the rest of the investigation? There was a very keen sense of anticipation among the media when Grantham approached the stand. The feeling was that the defence would attempt to tear him a new one.
He came prepared. He brought five journals with him to the stand. They formed an impressive stack, but that was nothing compared to his back-up - another police officer entered court dragging a two-wheeler trolley loaded with journals and folders containing God-knows many pages of various assorted memoranda.
Ben Vanderkolk stood for the prosecution. This was unusual - Vanderkolk has barely said a peep at the trial, leaving co-counsel Philip Morgan QC, a man with an undertaker's grim, hollowed face, to examine most of the witnesses.
Vanderkolk asked Grantham, "Do you remember a meeting with Mark Lundy on December 4, 2000?"
Grantham said, "Can I refer to my notes?"
He was told that he could. He searched his pockets, and wailed, "In my hurry to get here I left behind my glasses!"
It was interesting to note his anxiety, his small wave of panic. A police officer was sent to search for the glasses in an office outside the courtroom. He didn't return. The judge gave Grantham permission to track down the spectacles. The three pips and the merit award were a blur of blue as he legged it out of the court. He found them. He took his seat, peered inside a folder, and said to Vanderkolk: "Yes."
They discussed the December 4 meeting. Lundy had called it, to check on the police investigation into the murders.
Grantham asked him if police could search his car and some belongings, and Lundy said sure, no problem. "The accused said he wanted to help us any way he could."
Vanderkolk then asked Grantham a series of questions about slides containing samples taken from Lundy's polo shirt. The Crown claims the slides contain traces of Christine's brain; the defence argues that the slides were contaminated. Grantham said he kept the slides in a safe in his office. He packed them on a visit to Dallas, Texas, where Dr Rodney Miller strained the material into 10 slides, and fastened them in paraffin wax. Grantham took the paraffin blocks back to New Zealand, and put them in his safe.
"Thank you," said Vanderkolk. "That will be all."
Grantham was on the stand for 15 minutes. Justice Simon France called for a break; the defence would go at Grantham after lunch.
The defence did not go at Grantham. Ross Burns treated him with great courtesy, and asked him not especially detailed questions in a pleasant and respectful manner for 45 minutes.
It was all over so fast the prosecution was unable to call its next witness. "I've been caught short," Morgan told the judge. He plainly expected Grantham would be on the stand until at least Monday; there had been discussion in court about Grantham probably having to pause in his evidence, because Dr Miller is only available to appear as a witness, via video-link, on Monday morning.
The five journals, the two-wheeler trolley supporting millions of words about Mark Lundy - none of it was needed. Grantham floated out of the courtroom at 3pm. The defence had got what it wanted.
There was talk about information received by the police in the Lundy neighbourhood about 10pm on the night of the murders - a woman screaming, dogs going berserk, the sound of breaking glass. Burns changed the subject, to Grantham's meeting with pathologist Dr Heng Teoh, to discuss the slides taken from Lundy's shirt. Teoh told him, "A man could not be convicted on the strength of one glass slide - they were too degenerative and should remain a mystery." Burns then asked about an unidentified fingerprint in the Lundy kitchen.
And that was pretty much it. The genteel conversation brought a quiet, rather muted end to week four of the trial. Strange beasts, trials; the weeks go by like carriages on a railway track, creaking and thumping along, twisting and turning, always moving forward.
Lundy's trial is likely to continue for another four weeks, maybe five. At this half-wayish point, prosecution have presented evidence about motive, Lundy's movements and behaviour at the motel on the night of the killing, the mileage on his car and how much petrol it used, allegations that he staged a burglary, and the ferocity of the attack.
Morgan told the jury in his opening address, "You may think it was carried out by someone with hostility, to put it mildly, towards Christine."
The forensic evidence has focused for a fair while on paint fragments in Christine's hair, which the Crown says came from Lundy's tools, and for a long while on the stains on Lundy's polo shirt. The stains are human brain, say the police; the defence has presented evidence about a beef and chilli pie wrapper found in Lundy's car. Dr Miller will talk about his findings on the stains when he appears on Monday. It might go on and on - a long-winded Dutch scientist was on the witness stand for three days this week, discussing her examination of the slides.
Morgan, in his opening address, also told the jury that the Crown's witnesses will include a jailhouse snitch. As well, he said, prosecution would produce evidence taken from Lundy's police interviews. A video might be played. In four weeks, the only time Lundy's voice has been heard was when he entered pleas of not guilty, and when the court was played a secretly taped telephone conversation from 2001. Much more will be heard from him in a police interview - and Lundy will be seen, as he was 15 years ago, a fatty with thick glasses and flat hair.
The 56-year-old guy who stands in the back of the court these days has lost a fair amount of weight. He wears a dark business suit, and his goatee indicates a sense of style. He doesn't belong to his past, to the life he used to have. The court was shown a police video this week of the crime scene at Lundy's house at 30 Karamea Crescent. It was such an average New Zealand home, nothing flash, the bare suburban minimum. Pallets from his kitchen sink business were leaning in an untidy pile against the house. The back yard had a small scruffy lawn, a trailer, a sock on a clothesline.
The film moved inside the home. The kitchen was small, with blue cupboards. There was a coffee cup on a bench, an electric jug, three cans of Lion Brown. Amber's bed didn't seem as though it had been slept in. She lay on her front on the carpeted hallway. Christine's body was in her bed; it looked like it took up most of the bedroom, leaving the killer only a narrow space to stand by the side of the bed and start swinging his axe or some such weapon that killed Christine and chopped at the headboard.
It was winter. A wind shook the daisy bush in the front garden. Someone had left a bunch of flowers beside the letterbox - an offering of love for the family that no longer existed.